The Future of Conservation

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<p>What's next for conservation?</p>
<p>Global warming. Habitat destruction. Exploding energy prices. Loss of biodiversity.</p>
<p>As is usually the case, the destructive potential of our current situation carries with it huge opportunity. The big question is how to take advantage of this growing opportunity.</p>
<p>During the past five years, the idea of conservation has evolved, and where it was once considered one of a dozen 'special interests', it's now taking root in the core values of a majority of Americans. I've been studying this, and for the same reasons that entrepreneurs start for-profit businesses, the current situation has created new niches that ache to be filled.</p>
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<p>Current research suggests that while over 80% of American people say that they 'care' about the environment, only 30% consider themselves environmentalists, or relate to the positions taken by the environmental movement. These numbers suggest that <strong><em>half</em></strong> of America is ready for new ideas and innovative projects.</p>
<p>This <strong><em>half </em></strong>of America is the new market for the conservation movement.</p>
<p>The conservation movement was born out of necessity-post WWII development was reaching a level which, without some controls, would seriously impact our health and quality of life. Conservation groups formed to <strong>stand up in front of wrong-doing</strong>. While there will always be wrong-doing to stop, there is now more emphasis on finding <strong>new methods, </strong>and today, for example, the magazines and newspapers and the television are all filled with ideas and ads for new products for 'greening' our lives-for living more 'sustainably'. There is a third phase of conservation which involves a dramatic <strong>shift in consciousness </strong>involving how we see ourselves in the context of life on earth.</p>
<p>Throughout our entire history, our species has thrived due to our ability to adapt to current conditions, to change. This is still the case and wherever we turn, we are being asked to <em>change </em>for the sake of our planet's future. I think that true change doesn't come from external pressure, but is the result of internal processes.</p>
<p>This is among the themes of <em>The Bridge at the Edge of the World, </em>Gus Speth's latest book, published this past spring by Yale University Press. Speth, who directs Yale's School of Forestry, believes that the oldest and most powerful conservation groups were originally formed to confront the negative aspects of modernity and have become very successful doing litigation, legislation, and policy work. We still need this, possibly more than ever. We also need new organizations to work directly with people (that <strong><em>half</em></strong> of America I mentioned earlier?) to create possibilities for that shift in consciousness that will inevitably lead to changes in the way we all think and act and vote. This is not something that can be invented, taught, and learned. We already have it.What is the role of innovation in tapping this internal force? What will new conservation organizations look like?</p>
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