Economic reform is in all the news including the Occupy Movement, the USA Republican Presidential Candidate race, President Obama’s State of Union Address last night, and recent Supreme Court decisions that allow for unlimited campaign financing through the formation of Super PACs. Just this past week here in Gainesville, Florida, Cornell West gave a speech as did Tavis Smiley who said, “I submit to you that either we eradicate poverty or poverty just might eradicate us. The very future of our democracy is at stake.”
Not only is democracy at stake, but so is biodiversity and the well being of the earth and her ecosystems. Just this week in the journal BioScience a paper addressed this issue, entitled “Global Biodiversity Conservation and the Alleviation of Poverty.” It reports what I have slowly learned over 25 years of conservation work in Latin America: Where there is poverty, ecosystem health is fundamentally important to the people’s well being, and these very same areas of impoverishment are the areas of highest biodiversity concern for the well being of all people. Let me say it another way – all people need these ecosystems to be healthy and biodiverse, and yet these same areas do not have the resources to protect and preserve the environment. They need help, from all of us.
Will Turner goes on to say, “Developed and developing economies cannot continue to ask the world’s poor to shoulder the burden of protecting these globally important ecosystem services for everyone else’s benefit without compensation in return. But it also means that natural ecosystems can go beyond providing essential in-kind benefits to poor communities now; if access and markets are appropriately structured, these ecosystems could also be the basis for considerable additional income. So what should we do with this information?”
We could see how helping people sustain themselves in biodiverse areas a world away from us helps us all. Then we could construct our conservation and human rights projects to holistically address the needs of all – the many species and the one earth.
This means that we do not come riding in on a white horse or in a white hummer to save the day, for this same articles continues in the words of Will Turner, Conservation International‘s Vice President of Conservation Priorities and Outreach, “Working in international conservation, I know that nearly all conservation efforts are local. The success of any project or program largely hinges on how well it addresses the needs and constraints defined by a place’s people, institutions and conditions, and how well it engages those people and institutions in creating solutions.”
A possible phrase to capture conservation’s goals these days, “It’s about the people!” Another possible slogan is, “It’s about poverty!”
Saving the world then isn’t just about getting jobs for people or preserving pristine habitat. It’s about, well, everything and everybody. It’s about you and your well being.
Well, if it’s about everything and everybody, where do we start? How do make that huge goal and vision manageable and not cause for giving up in despair and wanting to drive our Prius off a cliff?
I’m cogitating on this mightily these days, that is, how can we see that, for instance, saving the Scarlet Macaws and the indigenous people of Honduras and Nicaragua is also saving ourselves. When we find ways to support people and parrots far away, we feather our own nest so that the dreams of our children can hatch out in the years to come. We don’t do “good deeds” to help others, we do it to help ourselves!
Well, I’m still thinking. You can bet your bottom dollar that when I find a concrete, doable way to show how we can transform our love for birds and people here into global conservation efforts I’ll let you know. Although you could adopt a nest now, call it your own, and feather the future as you see fit, and as you like it.
Yours in hope,