Conservancy’s Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva is championing serious
changes in the business model currently embraced by the conservation
movement, what many call the “conflict industry.”
Kareiva’s thought-provoking essay
says a lot of what most people involved in resources have known for
many years: conflict fundraising, “I have a nightmare” scenarios, can
only take you so far.
demonstrate how the fates of nature and of people are deeply intertwined
— and then offer new strategies for promoting the health and
prosperity of both.”
I’ve referred to this as being “locked in an eternal symbiosis” so, yes, I agree with Dr. Kareiva.
“Nature could be a garden —
not a carefully manicured and rigid one, but a tangle of species and
wildness amidst lands used for food production, mineral extraction, and
Adherence to policies based
on a simplistic “stop doing that” philosophy have resulted in severe
damage to human communities and the environment. Dr. Kareiva gives a nod
to the loss of the logging communities of the Pacific Northwest during a
famous conflict campaign where he worked as a young man, the spotted owl fiasco. I think most conflict industry campaigners experience similar nightmares over good intentions that went horribly awry.
Most of these policy
catastrophes could have been avoided if the simplistic black hats vs.
white hats and “charismatic megafauna”-style marketing/fundraising
materials had been exchanged for true education campaigns, campaigns
that recognized the people on the ground and good science, that embraced
holistic ecosystem management regimes.
Dr. Kareiva notes that Conservation Refugees’ author Mark Dowie has reported that, “About half the land selected for protection by the global conservation establishment
over the past century was either occupied or regularly used by
indigenous peoples. In the Americas that number is over 80 percent.”
So, argues Kareiva, the model
has been for wealthy urbanites to lock up more land, to deny access to
resources, to ignore their fellow man.
Dowie reports, “Estimates
vary from five million people displaced over the last century by
conservation to tens of millions, with one Cornell University professor
estimating that 14 million individuals have been displaced by conservation in Africa alone.”
A 2004 declaration signed by
all 200 delegates to the International Forum on Indigenous Mapping
stated that the “activities of conservation organizations now represent
the single biggest threat to the integrity of indigenous lands.”
Dr. Kareiva recognizes the importance of making changes to how we address environmental issues.
He pushes for “[C]onservation
to embrace marginalized and demonized groups and to embrace a priority
that has been anathema to us for more than a hundred years: economic
development for all. The conservation we will get by embracing
development and advancing human well-being will almost certainly not be
the conservation that was imagined in its early days. But it will be
more effective and far more broadly supported, in boardrooms and
political chambers, as well as at kitchen tables.”
Well said. Thank you, Dr. Kareiva. May I buy you a beer?
published by The Breakthrough Journal, Winter 2012, accessed at