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Lauren Hawkins

TEDCRED 50+

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From ivory tower to prison cell: How can we bring conservation efforts to the public?

Conservation and other environmental movements have long been viewed as the initiatives of a select group of people. Rare, an international conservation group, seeks to change conservation policy by turning it into a movement that derives support from the public. As there website states, “conservationists must become as skilled in social change as in science; as committed to community-based solutions as national and international policy making.”

How can this be accomplished? The Sustainable Prisons Project in Washington State offers a novel approach to Rare’s mission. This project, a partnership between The Evergreen State College and Washington State Department of Corrections, allows inmates across Washington to participate in environmental education, sustainable practices, and science research projects. Learn more about this program at http://blogs.evergreen.edu/sustainableprisons/stories/prisons-with-nature/.

Creative conservation initiatives like the Sustainable Prisons Project help both the conservation movement and the participants of the program. How can we expand this project to other parts of the global community in order to fully bring conservation to the forefront of political and social discussions?

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    Jun 8 2012: Since people are discussing how to make environmentalism cool and how we should introduce children to environmentalism, I'm going to talk about Captain Planet. That's right, Captain planet. Sure, it has a terrible case of early 90s, and watching it as an adult it is very silly, but as a kid I'll be damned if I didn't think it was the coolest thing ever, and it's the only exposure to environmentalism I had as a kid that I still remember to this day(well, except for Amazing Animals). Way more effective than anything I learned in school. I think a problem a lot of educational groups have is that they think because conservation is a serious issue, it needs to be taught to children in a very straight, serious manner. These people do not understand children. If you want something to stick with children, make it fun, make it crazy, give it a catchy theme song, but mix in your message so they're learning as they go. Captain planet also had the advantage that you could use the dramatic and emotional tension inherent in an action cartoon to give the issues at hand emotional weight for young viewers. I've heard people argue that Captain Planet undermines serious issues because they could just call a super hero and he would solve the problem. My reaction as a kid was "holy crap pollution’s such a big problem it needs its own SUPERMAN! That's gotta put it on the same level as alien invasions, evil armies, natural disasters, and dark Gods!". But maybe I'm just weird. He didn't even always win; sometimes the problems were just too big for Captain Planet to resolve.

    What I'm getting at here is that the best way to get kid invested into something is to terms they can understand, and that there seems to be this idea that serious issues need to be taught in a serious manner, but they don't. The issues need to be given substantial WEIGHT, but that can still be done while conveying things in a palatable manner. Captain planet did that and we need more shows that hit for that angle.
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      Jun 8 2012: I could not agree with you more. I too watched Captain Planet and I remember that the problems they faced portrayed real-life examples and somewhat realistic solutions, such as it was never Captain Planet alone that could take on these huge environmental issues, but it took a team effort of all the Planeteers showing how ever a superhero cannot resolve the world issues, but it takes many people to promote change. Along the lines of cartoons, I also remember a very catchy "R-E-C-Y-C-L-E" song from 90's cartoon Rocko's Modern Life that sang about pollution and the depleting O-Zone layer. It not only made the young viewers aware of the issues, but it also showed ways the viewers could help the issue, and if they learn at such a young age, the process of recycling and smart consumer-ship will become natural as they grow up. For those interested, here is a YouTube link to the song.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEpG3UsKv54
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        Jun 8 2012: Oh wow! I watched Rocko's modern life as a kid as well. I had totaly forgotten about that episode! Very strange to see something like that in a show like Rocko that almost never tryed to be educational in any way. Mabey it's more effective that way; if a show that never trys to teach you anything suddenly trys to teach something to you, that usualy implies it's pretty important.
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      Jun 8 2012: I agree that it is important to get the knowledge out to a younger group. It's hard to get older people who are accustomed to the lifestyles we have to make enough changes to make any real difference. I guess that every little bit helps, but if we can show the younger generations the issues we are facing in the future in regards to the environment and biodiversity, they might be more willing to grow up with a smaller footprint. I know that this will probably take more time to make a turnaround before it's too late, but it is a start, and seeing the younger generation making changes might even make the older generation respond.
  • Jun 7 2012: Reading through everyone's comments, it seems like there are a lot of good ideas out there. I agree with a number of people who have mentioned raising awareness through the media. This idea is closely tied with making conservation "cool." One example that comes to mind is Jack Johnson and his "Greening" tour. (http://jackjohnsonmusic.com/greening/2010). Even if you don't like his music, or don't necessarily approve of everything he does, this seems like the right kind of action to get people going. He is one person who has an impact on a large number of people.
    Are there other celebrities anyone can think of that are well known and also already involved in some kind of conservation effort?
    Does anyone have any ideas on how to encourage some of our more prominent social figures to come to the forefront and perhaps act as one of the faces of biodiversity? I know this second question is likely to anger some people who believe that it is a little insulting to environmental efforts, but I say that if it works, it works.
    • Jun 7 2012: Long have I wished for a sports celebrity to take their "15 minutes of fame" and do something positive with it. Instead we only here the most hackneyed platitudes regurgitated again and again. It is nauseating. Alterantive media and communications may be of some utility but mainstream media is complicit to the problems, owned as it is by giant profit-driven multinationals.
      The study of change suggests that people resist change as a matter of course. During our evolution change usually meant something awful like a cave bear or a raiding party or an earthquake. So inspire of the fact that change is constantly occurring humans fool themselves into believing that some sort of permanence is normal.
      I suspect it is going to take some kind of drastic environmental disaster before we will have enough critical mass to make lasting significant change. And I hope it happens sooner than later because the later it happens the more precipitous the fall.
      This link shows a few celebrities that have contributed to conservation efforts: http://www.looktothestars.org/category/40-conservation
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    Jun 8 2012: One of the ways to expand this project is to try to reach out to as many various groups as possible, but tailor fit the proposal to each group the best you can. I can't remember if it was also by Nadkarni, but I've read of efforts where they were able go to a church, and (after having asked for permission to talk to the congregation weeks prior) were able to get the people there talking about community efforts to protect the environment.

    I'm running out of time, but the point is, if you make the effort and try to be as open as possible, people can come to basic agreements that make real progress.
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    Jun 8 2012: In order to promote conservational efforts, every person must be made aware of environmental issues and educated on their part within the system which creates need for conservational movements. I feel a way of promoting this is by increasing access to education. I think it is wonderful that we are educating inmates rather than simply locking them up. The fact that access to education is segregated among individuals based on their wealth is wrong, it is simply a way of keeping us categorized into classes. I think environmental and conservation education should start in primary school and continue through secondary school. I also support the idea of education rather than incarceration.
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      Jun 8 2012: I agree, education should be more accessible, but given the contested nature of some aspects of environmental protection (the global warming skeptics for example) how do we promote the "good science?" The class aspect that you bring up is interesting, particularly given the socioeconomic makeup of prisons. Perhaps earlier education and opportunities would prevent incarceration in the first place, and then broad education programs to catch those that fall through the cracks would help.
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    Jun 8 2012: in order to make as big as an impact as possible, environmentalism needs to become part of every day life and habit. This means that we need to attack on all fronts, the wallet, the media, education, and community. First I will discuss the wallet. This can be broken down into personal and commercial. We can all agree that commercial emissions takes up the vast majority of the green house gases and pollution. Therefore as many have said before, we need a tax incentive for businesses to reduce their footprint and build more efficient buildings with better circulation and green roofs. This can also be tuned down to the personal level. Though many of these taxes are already in place, we need to increase the awareness and solutions to the issues with more legislation and public media. This brings me to my next point, education. As many have said before, we need to make the concepts of environmentalism available and "cool" for children. With education, children will begin implementing and informing their parents about ways to conserve. The media, being a reflection of our society, will soon follow. If children are interested in the environment, more shows and articles will be written about it. Finally, there's the community. In order to make environmentalism habit, we need to impliment in into daily life. This means the creation of compost and community gardens in urban areas and increasing the ease for reusing and recycling. I envision a new suburbia, one where lawns are replaced with crops and cars are replaced by public transit. This all starts with legislative backing and public support.
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      Jun 8 2012: I absolutely agree that conservation needs to be a lifestyle, not a series of isolated projects. Thanks everyone for all of your great comments and suggestions on this topic. What are some other ways you currently work for conservation in your own life or ways you could increase your impact on the conservation movement?
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      Jun 8 2012: "In order to make as big as an impact as possible, environmentalism needs to become part of every day life and habit."

      This describes it extremely aptly I think. But the most effective place to focus our energy I think is in education. Its is much more straight forward to raise a conservation-aware generation (one that takes environmentalism as part of every day life) than to try to reteach or re-alight hard set old habits in the current generation (though that is a worthy effort, too, just a much more difficult and expensive one that may yield weaker results). We should have conservation class offered in high schools, and recycling and biodiversity lessons before that. It should be required the same way that English and history are. This is the best and most sure fire way to produce a conservation-wise society.
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    Jun 8 2012: As others have said, education at a young age will be critical to form proper conservation practices in the future. However, there is a very strong need to implement more sustainable practices now to ensure that future generations will have access to the resources we have today. One way to implement conservation changes now is to offer large companies significant economic incentives to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Changes at the corporate level would go a long way in conserving our planet. Similarly, citizens could receive tax breaks and other economic incentives to adopt sustainable practices. We all have heard that our current lifestyle will be unsustainable, yet little change has been adopted. By giving economic incentives to people and companies that use sustainable practices, I believe conservation would be implemented at a more global scale.
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      Jun 8 2012: I agree with you that change at the level of large corporations could go a long way to leading to even greater global change. But what types of economic incentives are you talking about? What do you think would really make corporations change if they haven't already?
    • Jun 8 2012: I agree with everything that you mentioned in your response. While there may be very many people out there who respond to the climate change and global warming by being sustainable, there are also those who need a bit more of a reason in order to change the way they live their everyday life. we are creatures of habit but we also like convenience and rewards. the the reward of doing something that may be less convenient would have to outweigh the extra effort for some people.
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    Jun 8 2012: Yes, I didn't consider degree or certification, and it is ridiculously hard to get a job in the conservation fields, even without prison on your resume. You are right on with the low costs labor, in Oregon a private company can lease an inmate for $3/day. I just really want to believe that recycling pays for itself. :)
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    Jun 8 2012: I think we should be implementing conservation science in the public school system and do it as early as elementary school. I think the skills and practices a society needs can and should be taught at a young age, and it wouldn't have to be a whole separate class students dreaded attending. Instead of requiring whole classes dedicated to conservation science, we could at least teach and implement basic principles of how to lessen our individual impact into all grades and every class. Young elementary students could learn the importance of separating recyclables after lunch and recess, and middle school student could be taught how to conserve food and resources in home economics.

    I truly believe education at a young age is the answer, and I think if adults and parents pushed the education systems to become more active in teaching children how to save the planet through conservation, we can drastically reduced negative impacts for future generations to come.
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      Jun 8 2012: Excellent idea! This seems like the most realistic and easy way to bring the idea of conservation to the forefront of social interactions. Having conservation classes at universities and prisons is a top down approach that states implement in order to make up for short comings in citizens education. If we start teaching this at a young age the first generation will have a great understanding of the concept and then teach their offspring the tools needed at home to supplement what they are being taught at school, much like how economics and frugality were taught during the depression when funds were short, the next generation had a greater appreciation for financial education. Education through generational support to success.
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      Jun 8 2012: I agree that education at a young age regarding conservation science is the most effective way to bring about change. Habits are formed at a young age and if elementary and middle school students learn about proper conservation practices, they will more likely maintain them into adulthood.
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      Jun 8 2012: I completely agree Neil, we should be teaching early rather than the top down approach we are taking. I think both together could be good though because if we are teaching children about the environment and conservation we should also be teaching their parents. If we teach the children about reducing, reusing and recycling, but they have no means of doing this at home then they wont actually do it and may not take as much out of these lessons. I know from experience that children who grow their own vegetables and fruit will eat them more often than children that get them from the store. If they see the whole process of their food being grown they are much more likely to eat it. I think starting early and implementing different aspects of conservation through all of their education would be a great step forward in the future environmental movements. If children are given hands on experience with conservation at a young age then I bet they will be more likely to do more later. Teaching our children is important because they are the future of the conservation movement. The changes they make and fight for are going to change the future of our world. Through our teaching of the things we have learned, both mistakes and successes, they will use this knowledge and continue or implement/ try new things to make changes to further conservation and make bigger changes than our generation will.
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      Jun 8 2012: Its been done with the 3 Rs of recycling, but it could be done in a more pervasive way and with greater scope, in my opinion. Especially if we are looking to keep it away from being an actual class.
      The best way to expand upon the success that Washington State has seen here is almost certainly to bring it to other institutions, like many have said, to schools.

      I don't necessarily agree that we should keep the subject away from its own course or subject though.
  • Jun 8 2012: Education requirements for high school and university students would also spread basic environmental principles, as would focusing the attentions of programs like Americorp and Foodcorp on sustainability so that people can gain real life experience while being educated. I think for programs like this to be really successful though the actions they are taking need to be determined from a more centric point. Goal and strategy setting are necessary for any kind of planetary sustainability to be attained.
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    Jun 8 2012: It's hard to say how expand on a project like this. I think the first step would be to contact local Universities. This project must have gotten some grant money/University associated funds (at least for the research portion?). I think projects like these are actually really expensive for the return and its hard to see local governments being able to front the cost alone. I also question how valuable it is for the inmates. Gardening, feeding fish, bee keeping, and trash sorting don't seem to be the type of jobs that require a lot of experience (I mean I guess it's good that they have a job). Prisons already seem more sustainable than open society, and they get a lot of pressure from the government to reduce costs(and by extension the use of unsustainable natural resources) even without this program. Its great that the program got the prison to recycle and catch rain water but that probably costs more than what they were doing before. While it's fantastic that conservationists are taking advantage of inmates I question the sustainability of the project without all that univer$ity ca$h.
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      Jun 8 2012: I understand the questioning of the value of having inmates work but I think it's being asked with the assumption that inmates don't have the ability to think or grow intellectually or psychologically. It has been shown in many studies that just the sight of a plant has the ability to reduce stress and bring about peaceful emotions. The ability to touch plants has increased benefits. It should be noted that prisons are a place for people to be rehabilitated, not to just sit or be lucky to "have a job". Working with plants can help rehabilitate a person in prison and give them skills and the knowledge that they can help others that they may not have had before imprisonment. The value to rehabilitating, or even slightly improving, an inmates social interactions is immense to the communities they will be living in after prison.
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        Jun 8 2012: Very true, I didn't think about that. However, there are probably more cost effective ways to get inmates involved with nature. Building a recycling center, fish farm, and rain water collector seems a little excessive (or at least unreasonable on a country-wide scale). Also, inmates are offered other, more beneficial, work experiences and educational opportunities while incarcerated. I don't think this program offers them any type of degree or certification, while the prison auto body shop probably provides both. It's great that prisoners are getting involved with nature, but the whole project seems like Ivory Tower initiative that also provides researchers with free/low cost labor (IMO).
  • Jun 8 2012: In order to move forward with the conservation effort, I think humans need to be rewarded with something, probably money, for making more conservative choices when it comes to the environment. For example, households can receive a tax credit for installing solar panels on their houses/businesses. This idea of rewarding people with tax credits for making more environmentally friendly choices is a good start to persuading people's decisions. If this idea could be broadened to include more economic, 'everyday life' situations, then more people could receive tax credits, which, in turn, would lead to more environmentally friendly behavior.
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      Jun 8 2012: I agree that there has to be some sort of incentive for people to change their behavior. Most people are selfish in nature (not always in a bad way), and unless it benefits them, socially, economically, or personally, having some sort of reward is needed. Part of the issue I have right now is eating healthier. Buying junk food is much cheaper than buying vegetables. If junk food was more of a premium then people would adapt to the fact that if they wanted to save money they could buy healthier food. This can go one step further and providing support to markets to distribute their foods locally in the surrounding area. This would reduce fuel consumption globally and help financial stimulate many local communities.
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        Jun 8 2012: I agree that it is difficult to obtain support from the public unless there is some way to prove how much the issue really does affect them. Sadly, people won't act on something unless it directly affects them. If the general public is rewarded for making conservation choices then we would absolutely see forward movement.
      • Jun 8 2012: I'm in the same boat as you when it comes to eating healthy. It is just cheap and easy to eat junk. I think you can expand the idea you touched on with junk food to fuel as well. I have thought for a while that the price we pay for gas is not the true price of oil. I think our wars, and our military's presence in many countries is due entirely to the need to procure more oil. Well, if we need this oil so bad and can't live without it, we need to be paying the full price for it. If gas were $7 or $8 per gallon in America then maybe we wouldn't insist on using so much of it. If we're going to send soldiers to other countries to protect the interests of oil companies, those companies should be paying for that. And by extension we will end up paying for it. And that is a good thing.

        The thing is, we already are paying for it by way of taxes and debt. This isn't good enough. People blame social programs for raising their taxes when in truth it is our dependence on oil. We need to see what this dependence is really costing us, and future generations of Americans.
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          Jun 8 2012: Mat, you make a very good point. It's our societies consumption that is to blame for the rise of taxes. Will America ever be able to eliminate our dependency? I believe that this way of thinking and over consuming is engraved in our society regardless of the environmental impacts.
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    Jun 7 2012: One big obstacle of conservation initiatives is the belief among industrialists and multinationals that it is against productivity. It would seem that modern day view of 'right' industrial practices is governed by profit or more money.
    There is hope if the advantages or importance of environmental conservation is propagated in educational institutions; and if such messages are targetted at young people through the social media.
    The social media can then be a platform for like-minded individuals to organise projects in their communities or to offer support for projects of the kind. Successful community-based projects can then be presented as models that could inspire similar ones.
    The most important thing is continous action, not just words. The message first; then implementation.
    Even politicians should be asked to state their stand on environmental conservation. When societies are governed by concerned citizens, companies could be persuaded to change.
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      Jun 7 2012: I really like your comment that a big obstacle to conservation is the belief that it somehow goes against economic success and resources for a country. Certainly conservation efforts are in opposition with extreme waste and excessive production/consumption. However, conservation does not need to oppose economic success. The Sustainable Prisons Project is a great example of how environmental education can actually increase job options. Once the inmates leave the prison, they are prepared with much wider job skills than when they entered. Conservation initiatives must find ways to reconcile their plans with the goals of industrialists. This doesn't mean compromising the environment, but rather highlighting how conservation plans can benefit wide groups of people.
    • Jun 8 2012: I also agree that the idea that environmentalism is the enemy of capitalism is a major barrier to increasing environmental awareness today. Large corporations wield considerable resources that could potentially be used to help conservation or better yet education, should they be persuaded that it is in their best interest. I also agree that action is the most important thing and that it is crucial that people not only discuss these topics, but live lifestyles that conform to these ideals.
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    Jun 7 2012: Many have mentioned making conservation trendy, which is a good approach but what is critical is for citizens to realize and keep in mind that conservation does work and makes a difference. So, it is important for the media to communicate and inform others about current conservation projects, their goals, progress, and successes. There are many environmental websites, magazines and channels that talk about this but they have a limited audience. I think it would be good to have more exposure to conservation stories. That way people can begin listening more to the answers and not just the problems and get inspired to engage in a conservation project or start one themselves.
    • Jun 7 2012: Stephanie,
      I agree with you that increasing exposure may be a key factor in expanding conservation efforts. If we want to access a broader audience, it seems we need to identify a main target. My first instinct is to look to Hollywood. I am constantly amazed by the power celebrities seem to exude over "the everyday person." I might argue that in many ways, such people have more power over the public than our elected officials. If we can convert a few mainstream celebrities to the cause, or identify those that are already interested in conserving biodiversity, I believe this would be a huge start. Is this what you were thinking when you mentioned increasing exposure? If not, what were some of your ideas?
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      Jun 7 2012: Marketing conservation as positive and making it trendy is certainly the right course of action. However, it seems to me that the terminology that is often used such as 'environmental conservation' is so well understood by our culture to mean 'saving the whales and rainforests' and as such is often dismissed or even mocked by the general public. Many Americans especially are simply turned off by environmental causes because of a distrust of those who promote them and the caricature of a tree-hugging hippie smoking pot and talking about saving the world, MAN.

      I think the language is going to become especially important. Instead of saying environmental conservation, perhaps we should begin calling it 'ecosystem services production', or some other such positive and powerful wording.

      Ingraining the development of technology into living efficiently will also be a driving force for the conservation movement. Industry is getting wind of how consumers appreciate the sheer availability of information and services within devices such as smart phones, ipads, ereaders, etc. Eventually some corporate suit is going to catch on to just how powerful a marketing tool the idea of technological efficiency is. When efficiency becomes the name of the game, it isn't such a stretch to convince people that efficiency in environment works to their advantage.

      Just think of how many classrooms are already incorporating the use of ipads or other packaged devices to assist in learning. All of these kids are going to grow up understanding that vast technological power within the palm of their hand is awesome, and will naturally support further scientific endeavors.
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        Jun 7 2012: Greg, you make a great point regarding the attitude behind the term environmental conservation. I know a great deal of people that love and respect the natural world around us yet cringe at the thought of being labeled an "environmentalist." It makes me wonder where the negativity comes from and why hugging a few trees is such a bad thing. I believe educating the public is key to bringing a more positive connotation to conservation, and a slight lingo change wouldn't hurt either. The media would be a great outlet to tap into for portraying a new "trendy" model of preserving ecosystems , since they tend to have such a large influence on bringing about change in the general public.
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          Jun 8 2012: One problem, from what I've seen anyway is that hippies are clearly defined as a counter culture, and it is /very/ popular for people outside of a counter culture to make fun of/hate on the people within, and everything associated with them tends to suffer in the public image as a result. For instance there are a lot of "emo" bands that I think could have achieved mainstream popularity, but people didn't want to listen to them because "that’s music emos listen to!", which is apparently a problem. In the same way, environmentalism suffers from its association with the hippie counterculture, even though the hippie movement and the environmentalist movement are completely different movements that just happen to have a few things in common. They act as if planting a tree will make them spontaneously start smoking weed, stop bathing and start complaining about the government, man(which are unfair stereotypes about hippies anyways, but I digress). So I think the problem is less about people thinking tree hugging is stupid, and more to do with people thinking tree hugging is something hippies do, and hippies are stupid. Which is terrible logic on a countless number of levels, and terribly detrimental to the environmentalist movement.
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          Jun 8 2012: I agree with what both Greg and Nickie are saying about the lingo and words used to describe people who want to fight for environmental conservation. It is very true that people have a negative feeling around the word "environmentalist" and other lingo used to describe the people and the efforts. I think the media could play a part in starting "new trendy models of preserving ecosystems." The media could also be playing a role in overusing the words, which could give them the negative connotation they have today.
          Greg, I think in some ways it could be both hindering and helping the conservation, but overall technology seems to do a lot of harm through the process it takes to make them and then the energy needed to run the technology. Would it be better to have these kids doing hands on science and learning rather than learning about it from technology?
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      Jun 8 2012: I like that you bring up all of the sources for ideas on how to be sustainable and that we need to make it trendy. I think that if we made being sustainable more accessible and easier for the everyday person that it would go a long way to encouraging people to change their lifestyles. Even the implementation of a few Natural Capitalistic views would slightly change our actions while still creating a significant shift towards sustainability. The environmental movement also needs to present a more united front so that the infighting does not deter potential supporters and give the media a way to delegitimize impact science.
    • Jun 8 2012: But is conservation enough? In making conservation trendy what is the definition of conservation we are using and what tactics/strategy are we using to accomplish which goals? Getting popular support for a group or idea is completely possible, but without a call to action and a real definition of what we're striving to do awareness just creates potential energy, not the real change that the Sustainable Prisons Project strives for.
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      Jun 8 2012: I think communication is of course essential. The idea of using prisons is pretty unique, however if the message isn't well conveyed, the whole project would be pointless. Especially because humans have the ability to interpret things differently, its necessary to make sure they interpret the right message.
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      Jun 8 2012: While making environmentalism trendy helps bring in more people, I think it also has a tenancy to simplify issues and make people focus of quick fixes, like compact florescent bulbs, which do use less energy, but they also have mercury and that comes with its own slew of environmental and public health concerns. That is where education comes in, people should be aware of the complexity of the issues through education and access to information.
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      Jun 8 2012: This is a great point, there should be more coverage in the media about efforts being made both locally and on a larger scale. I do every once in a while see something on the news about local communities starting a community garden or recycle program, but there should be more coverage.
  • Jun 7 2012: This project sounds like a great idea. However, I think that the main barrier to the spread of this project to other areas is the funding. Funding for prisons come from tax payers, and if the tax payers do not believe that sustainability is important, why would they vote to support programs like this? Education of the masses is the key, for people of all ages. I feel like the television media is the largest influence of public opinion in America today, and if mainstream shows and movies, for audiences of all ages, incorporate sustainable ideals into their material, this could be the single largest way to increase awareness of sustainability problems.
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      Jun 7 2012: One of the first things an organization such as this should do first is get funding. As sad as this fact may be, that we live in a world where without money, we have very little power, it would help them expand. Like you said, Billy, they could reach a large population if they were able to educate people through the media and television. But commercials, shows, and movies cost a lot of money. They could also travel to remote parts of the world and educate people with lectures and presentations. I think this idea would create awareness, and if they start small and get more people involved, this could turn into a much bigger organization.
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      Jun 8 2012: I agree with this fact, if conservation were free and easy then it would not be an issue, but as it takes money and a change in our current lifestyle, many people do not feel that is it worth it. Educating the masses about the effects of their lifestyle choices on the environment is essential to convince them to adapt to sustainable lifestyles. The prison program incorporates education into their curriculum, which is a good step. Mainstreaming environmental issues to society via tv and movies is probably the most effective way to make people realize what is happening and why we need to conserve. Shows like Planet Earth have made headway by making nature intriguing to people, and now we need to compound on that and teach people what effects they are having on our world.
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    Jun 7 2012: I'm a big believer in the ideal that knowledge is power. That being said, I think bringing conservation efforts to the public needs to start at a young age, perhaps elementary school. Because the way humans are changing the environment is an issue that does and will affect each and every one of us, educating children about the importance of the environment and what they can do to help will certainly make sure everyone is informed. Thus, the more people that are informed, the more people that will go on to take action.
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      Jun 7 2012: I completely agree with you. The best way to inspire someone to act throughout their life time is to educate them at an early age in ways that are both fun and informative. It is important that the subject be continued until the end of high school in order to reinforce its significance and the need for change in human action.
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        Jun 7 2012: Yeah, that's a good idea also. Not to mention the fact that by the time I have kids in high school, the issues won't be quite the same as they are now. Things are almost certainly going to be just a little to a lot worse, and thus we need all the informed, concerned, and motivated young people we can get to help the generation after them.
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        Jun 8 2012: This is a good idea. I also think that we need to focus more on educating people on conservation problems but that it is also possible to fix. I think that as of today people tend to hear all of this bad stuff that's going on and their initial thought is that there is nothing that can be done to make it better. This is a big obstacle that needs to be overcome.
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        Jun 8 2012: I think it's more important to try to change the way children think of society. If they have a more sustainable lifestyle it will be much easier to teach them in highschool about how to save the environment. People can learn about environmental conservation all they want, but if they do not live the changes they learn all hope is lost.
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      Jun 8 2012: Your idea is great and has already been incorporated into elementary curriculum. My internship this term consisted of going to elementary schools in Lane county and teaching classes about how to be more sustainable in terms of energy use and how each energy worked. The kids were all very informed on the issues and eager to learn more about them. Not to mention that the schools themselves have made a huge push towards being more sustainable in any way they can.
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    Jun 7 2012: One thing that I thin could greatly help get people involved is offering them an incentive other then pure pride that they have done their part to save the planet. People require something more tangible. Perhaps offering tax credits for those involved with local programs or something along those lines. If they have something to get out of it that they can use or that has high value in society then people will want to get involved.
    • Jun 7 2012: I completely agree with your point. There is a problem with payouts for conservation efforts however. Money is tight and conservation would not be a problem if we had enough money to make it go away. For that reason conservation is an extremely complicated issue to approach. It is much easier for people to turn a blind eye to the subject and make no actions. Programs which raise awareness and educate people are key to the success of conservation and that is why this prison program could be very useful.
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        Jun 8 2012: I totally agree that education and awareness are the first things that should happen to advocate for pro environmentalism habits. But at the same time we run into the issue, "Well now that I know what to do, why should I do it? What's in it for me?" What we run into are people learning about it and then turning a blind eye to the issue all together because it "doesn't affect them." I am saying that it needs to be brought on to a level for the average greedy American to see eye to eye with. A hard task when most of our noses are turned up so high.
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      Jun 7 2012: I think you're on to something promising here Nicholas, but to fully implement this idea we would have to somehow discover the monetary value of ecosystem services. This may seem like a daunting task, but by providing funding toward quantitative research, we should be able to find exactly how we impact the environment, and praise those who don't through tax credits.
      • Jun 7 2012: I agree that a quantitative methodology must be adapted in order for people to realize exactly how much our ecosystems are truly worth. I think this will be one of the most effective ways for gaining public support and raising awareness because, right now, I don't think the ecological effects of our actions is really general knowledge.
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      Jun 7 2012: Along those same lines, I've heard that offering social incentives can really help as well. Take general environmentalism, for example. It has become supremely popular among the general public because it is seen as the "cool" thing to do. I think there is merit behind this idea. If people think there is social gain behind what they are doing, such as letting the neighbors know that they reduced their waste by half, then more people are apt to do it. This doesn't really propose any tangible changes other than being loud about the things one is doing. Some might call it hubris, I call it conversation. Get the others to think about why they aren't doing those same things and maybe they will opt to be "cool" too. I just thought this was a neat concept when I first heard about it.
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        Jun 7 2012: Yes, even though I don't like the idea of people being compelled to be environmentally-responsible just for the rewards they derive from it, rather than just the pureness of it, I think that by implementing this reward system the feel-good feeling will come to outweigh the importance of the reward. Once people get over the mental hurdle of making a change, they may very well come to realize that the change has been for the better, and any sort of reward can be relaxed.

        http://kindista.org and http://kickstarter.com are great examples of positive community involvement. On a publically-visible nationwide scale something like this would be amazing. Could you imagine a nationwide "stock exchange" board showing how people are "trending" a la Twitter in their environmental and decency scores?
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      Jun 8 2012: It might also help to change the minds of adults if you make it about the children. Most adults will brush it off since the problems people are talking about now won't really affect them during their lifetime. It needs to be brought to their attention that for the sake of their children, or children they know need a better environment and that the adults need to start now. Adults will probably not like the idea of making children pay for their own choices.
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    Jun 6 2012: I think we need to take a full on approach to alter the way our society thinks about conservation. By first getting some influential members of society to truly be champions of conservation, they would start a trend of people who believe in living sustainably. Through teaching children now that sustainability is the only way of the future, it will get ingrained into their system for times ahead. By changing regulations not only on a local level, but instead on national and global levels, we can truly make a change.
    Now I realize these are very broad ideas here, but this is a very broad problem as well. I can see in our society quite a significant change just in the past decade with hybrid vehicles becoming mainstream, solar panels popping up on thousands of houses, new wind turbines being developed across the globe and some, although not much, awareness now about eating healthier. Stores like Whole Foods and Market of Choice offer normal places for people to buy locally grown, organic foods. Even hydrogen fueling stations are coming online across the nation. Through furthering these causes as students, graduates and future parents we can all as a group make small choices that result in major changes.
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      Jun 6 2012: I agree with you Trevor that we need to start with ourselves in order to start forwarding these causes. We are the generation of future leaders and if our mindset is of one that the world may actually be able to change, then I think possibility of change could become a reality. Also along the lines of the original question, in order to bring conservation to the forefront of politics and social discussions, something first needs to be done to inform people of the issues of conservation. If people don't know, they don't care. This is where the media aspect of conservation comes into play, the more media coverage an issue has, the more people know about it and the more potential for people to care and want to do something to help create change.
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    Jun 6 2012: This sustainable prisons movement sounds awesome. Volunteers with more time than anyone and the muscles to do it. This project has the starting potential to bring change and influence to the lives of citizens, ecosystems, the wild, and inmates. Inmates are allowed the chance to truly give back to society in a way that effects everything positively. A movement they will be proud of and a movement that can hopefully chance peoples perspective about earth.
    • Jun 7 2012: I agree that allowing prisoners to get outside the prison walls and into the community could be just the rehabilitation that our justice system needs. This way, they would be spending their time helping others and maybe gaining a new perspective on life at the same time. This system must be fairly strict though because I don't feel that prisoners should be treated as slave labor, but allowing them to do things like volunteer work does not seem like a bad thing to me.
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        Jun 7 2012: I see what you're saying about prisoners doing the things we don't want to do. Hmm, it's kinda like bioremediation, where flowers that can soak up the negative toxins from the soil can make it amenable for new flowers to move in, until the soil is green again. While some tasks could certainly be a good way to punish prisoners and get something done at the same time, we're trying to make people better when they get out than they were to begin with, so you want to foster a love of nature, not disgust.
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    Jun 6 2012: That was kind of my main point. Creating a trend is the right thing to do and people LOVE to follow trends.
    If we get the younger generation to love natural diversity and respect, it will then be making an improvement. It is like when you ask your grandparents to send you an email. They don't understand what in the hell you are talking about. Just like we wont understand what the next generation is like. There will be such major changes that we as "parents" wont be able to keep up with. I remember that when i was a kid I would play with the family computer and report to my parents what I have done. However, they had absolutely no idea what i was talking about. Long story short, the children make the next generation and we need to fill their minds with the correct information. This will lead to a better tomorrow and an absolutely better future for our entire race.
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      Jun 6 2012: I agree that we should respect natural diversity, but this idea of "filling their minds with the correct information" seems a little brainwashy and to forceful. Shouldn't presenting the information and the proper evidence suffice for our children? The future is already experiencing that, but its the older generations that haven't been keeping up. Education will keep our young generations on top of the current hot topics, but those who have lives aren't necessarily doing the same. I believe the issue is not to create trends with our younger generations, but to encourage the older generations. We should be encouraging the working classes to contribute through practical ideals such as limiting our water/electricity/heat. Even better, lets improve on the waterless toilet idea, lets utilize green roofs, etc. These are all very practical small steps that we should all be making to contribute, but right now the responsibility lies in the working class, not our 5th graders.
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        Jun 7 2012: I agree with Rishi on this one. It seems to me that educating younger people is a good thing, but doesn't do much to help our current situation. I read that the ppm of atmospheric CO2 is closing in on a critical threshold. If we educate young people, by the time they are at the age where they can invent greener technology, enact legislation (or vote for that matter), or choose to spend their money on green/sustainable products, it will be too late. Unfortunately, until negative impacts of our degrading environment affect the working class en masse, I do not see a driver for change. That may be a bit pessimistic, but I would argue realistic.
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      Jun 7 2012: Education is critical to changing attitudes, however I was definitely more influenced by my parents' thoughts and actions than my teachers'. Sure, I loved my science teachers in grade school, but it was my mom, dad, and grandparents that created my interest in gardening, fishing, hiking, and general love for the outdoors. Animal Planet probably had a minor impact too! If conservation was geared towards college age through the working class, these people could transfer their values onto their children. Obviously combing this with early education about the benefits and needs for protecting our environment would be the most effective.
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        Jun 8 2012: Agreed parents/family are probably the most influential figures in a person's life. Most of my hobbies I have not developed in a vacuum, but rather from my brother (love of computers and video games) and photography (my uncle). I believe even though family is a significant part of developing a person's personality, there is still room for a teacher or other body (media for example) to help shape someone's views.
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    Jun 6 2012: That is exactly what I am saying. We really need to teach the you what is right and and wrong. Once they know that they will grow up with these ideals. That means that in 15 years it will be "cool" to have an electric car or grow your own their own garden. Trends and fads are very influential to our you and all we need to do is make our children think that being eco-frienly is cool then it will change the future.
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      Jun 6 2012: Although I agree that creating a trend to make environmental friendliness cool would make it more common, there is more to the success of a movement than just making something cool in the moment. There needs to be longevity and a clear motivation for and reason behind a movement in order to make it successful. If there is doubt even now among many politicians and a surprising percent of the general public about whether or not environmental problems even exist and if they are important, how would you propose that we create an attitude of environmental protectionism?
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      Jun 6 2012: I agree, the future relies on our children. With our generation aware of the consequences, it is up to us to raise the children with a green mind. Our generation will make the changes while the next lives it. People need to transition over now, because the longer we wait the less likely it will happen.
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    Jun 5 2012: All I have to say is "KONY 2012"... I think this is a clear example of how a movement can sound like a really great idea, but it also shows how easily a movment can die. I don't think getting movments started is the problem and I don't think that getting public support is the problem. However, in a society with a short attention span, the question is how to do keep a movement going once you have the support of the public. I think that ongoing education about the subject such as the one in the prision is the key component in bringing these topics to the public and is the key to making them successful.
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      Jun 5 2012: Great comment on how persistence is necessary for movements to really make a difference. Programs like the Sustainable Prisons Project are wonderful, but really must be implemented on a national or international scale to make a noticeable difference. Do you think that this kind of program could take off on a broader scale? If so, what needs to change?
      • Jun 5 2012: This program could very much take off on a broader scale, all that needs to happen is the continued push to maintain the program in prisons. It would be beneficial for make the Sustainable Prisons Project a program at all prisons have as an activity for inmates. Because climate change is becoming such a trend within the social world, I believe with a little persistence the project could really take off. However, the same could be said for education systems (although education systems can be more difficult to work with because certain community members are skeptical of climate change-talk as crazy hippy teachings). In short, this project is the exact kind of project that can be incorporated into our culture.
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        Jun 6 2012: I think that for this to happen you must show people that it really matters. With all of the other movements that people can get behind, you have to show the public why this is the most important. People are likely to only support a certain number of causes and with all of the movements out there you have to make yours stand out. Media is a great way to share the importance of your movement, but it cannot stop there. A movement has to be like idea, it has to spread and it has to continue to spread and evolve as it goes, otherwise it is likely to fail.
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        Jun 7 2012: I don't think that movements necessarily need to work at a broad scale, but they do need to have the ability to inspire and influence there. That way, others will take a similar initiative in their community and hopefully it gets big enough that similar conservation groups can join forces to make bigger changes. The Sustainable Prisons Project is a very unique in that because right now it is in a small scale, it has the ability to run as the people in charge please. The bigger a project gets, the more parties involved and the extra consideration that needs to be put to meet everyone's ideas. If the project was to work at a national level, then they might find restrictions in the kind of activities they wish to do.
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      Jun 6 2012: How do you think we should go about making sure there this movement continues? Do you think that there should be legislation put in place or that it should be on voluntary basis? I think it would be helpful is there were some guidelines for it that fostered support.
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    Jun 5 2012: I like the idea that sustainability is getting more notice, that is good. It is also a great way to keep inmates busy during their stay in prison. It is shown that if an inmate has a regular activity or something that he/she has to take care of, like a plant, they are less like to cause problems in prison. The only thing that I could see being a downside to this program is the correlation the public might get. Right now it is thought by a lot of the public that caring about the environment is only done by "granola hippies." If this becomes big in prison being ecologically smart might become correlated with being a criminal or a convict. I think the best way to get more people involved in saving our Earth is teaching the young. The stuff they are teaching in this prison program should be taught to elementary school kids. Kids this young are very impressionable and would be easy to mold into people that care about the environment. This would lead them to grow up caring about the impact they have on the planet and quite possibly change how we live for the better.
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      Jun 6 2012: I completely agree, educating our young is possibly one of the most important things we can do to make a huge difference in environmental movements. With this we will have a whole generation, and all succeeding generations know what they can do to make a difference. Issues mentioned earlier about teaching global warming being controversial, can be solved by simply presenting the facts to the students. Teachers do not need to infer about what is causing what (which is basically known anyways), but they can present the issue's cause as evolution is taught today (or at least when I was a child). Teachers can present it as the best scientific explanation we have for the rapid climate change we are experiencing. And as for everything else, at the simple level that would be taught to children, most of the other issues are not controversial at all- there is a problem, here is something you can do, or do less of to help solve it. We just need a way to show public support for the implementation of these topics being taught in schools.
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    Jun 5 2012: I think that it is a wonderful idea to get prisoners involved in this. I think anything productive happening in prisons, be it dog training, knitting, or conservation is a good thing. They have the time to learn about it and any kind of positive outcome is going to be a huge bonus.

    The best way to get through to people (especially god-fearing, conservative adults) is to use religion or use something they stand to lose. I know talking to family members about science and evolution and biodiversity was about as fruitful as trying to growing coffee in Alaska. Now, that same conversation explaining that the critters my uncle so dearly loves to shoot and fish might be gone someday, so that his grandchildren won't be able to enjoy game the way he does...THAT kinda got through. Alternatively, arguing with my good Catholic relatives about how "dominion" doesn't mean "trash the place" got farther than trying to explain evolution. Even if you're not Christian (I'm sure as tar not) it is weirdly helpful to know where the bible stands on protecting nature. We really need to do more to get churches, synagogues, and mosques involved in conservation projects, especially on a local level.
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      Jun 6 2012: I think addressing religion in some communities is an interesting idea. As a Christian, I find it odd that people would take our dominion over the earth to mean trash the planet. I was raised with the idea that our dominion meant we have a responsibility to steward the Earth and care for all of the organisms living on the planet. I think addressing this issue in some areas where religious people may be more close-minded to the idea of conserving biodiversity may aid in increasing public support. I would be wary of what tactics would be used, however. Often members of the scientific community scoff at people with faith, thinking they are all completely ignorant and foolish. My fear is that by addressing this aspect, the wrong tone or words would turn more people off to the idea. The best groups to reach out to may be the youth and young adults. College and high school students are likely to be the most responsive and willing to undertake serious conservation projects.
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        Jun 7 2012: I think that the better approach would be to have other Christians with science background talk to religious leaders and let the leaders handle their own congregations. I would never suggest anybody without a religious background try to talk to people they don't know about the subject. It is one thing to debate with relatives, but complete strangers? BAD idea. I've known plenty of scientists who believe in God, and I think they'd be ideal to help in this endeavor.
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      Jun 7 2012: I hadn't really considered religion as a factor in this debate/talk/idea... and I'm not fully convinced that it even has a place here. However, as the lone non-religious observer of a fairly religious family, I do see the powerful influence religion and church leaders hold on my family. I do think, especially in the US, that some environmentally-friendly church leaders could play a huge role in transforming environmental thought. Just imagine if some of the mega-churches started including environmental stewardship as part of their dogma (
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    Jun 5 2012: I don't think the issue is so much that there isn't enough education around the issue, I think its that the wrong approach is taken. I feel like most conservationists focus on spreading statements like "drive less!" and "The things that make you happy, like technology, are killing the planet!" It gets really old. I love the planet and I'm really freaked about the condition the planet is in right now, but every time someone started telling me about how I'm responsible for Polar bears dying, I go out of my way to drive an extra mile, just to annoy them. So, not mature. But I don't think anyone likes being blamed. So can you really blame the people that deny global warming? First of all they don't have the scientific background to understand whats going on, and second of all they don't know what to do to stop it and are so scared that as soon as someone says anything about climate change or habitat destruction, etc. its easier just to say that it doesn't exist. So I think the approach should be "You know this awesome place you love spending time? Lets keep it awesome forever!" rather then "Every time you turn on your car you kill twenty baby seals and make panda's cry."
    • Jun 5 2012: This is a very good point. I also think that there needs to be a little more focus and specific suggestions that help teach individual students how THEY can best contribute to the conservation efforts. In addition, like Peter said below, there is a lag time and I am very interested to see what our generation and the next does with their new found knowledge and understanding of climate change.
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    Jun 5 2012: If your education system is teaching science effectively, the concept of conservation should be a result. There is always a lag time though. Todays twelve year olds are taught about climate change and endangered species and the effects of over fishing etc. Twenty years from now these kids will be running for the senate with this knowledge as part of who they are. Its the over forties like me that lack the knowledge, unless your a sclince teacher, then you have to keep up.
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      Jun 5 2012: I am curious to see if you have any ideas on how we can keep those over forties involved and engaged? Is there a way we could educate so that they would want to participate and play a role in conservation?
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        Jun 5 2012: We have a system of recreational fishing licences here you pay 25 bucks a year to fish. The money is spent on research into fishing practices and to build artificial reefs and the like. The authorities will build a reef in one area to offset a no-fish zone in an adjacent area. The results of the research are made public on TV fishing shows, giving tips on how to recognise whether a fish is releasable etc. This allows you to only keep fish that were going to die anyway and not keep fish that would have survived if released. As EM says above it works because you are applying logical conservation practices to an activity that the fishos are invested in. Good conservation practices become a thing that they do, not just a thing that greenies do. Hopefully it spills over into other parts of their lives.
    • Jun 7 2012: I do agree that if our education system is teaching effectively that our next generation will understand the concepts of conservation. But I do not think this is occurring effectively all across the United States. Curriculum varies between states and without educators who have been educated in conservation the task seems nearly impossible without reforming how kids are being taught.
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        Jun 8 2012: I agree with you that education varies from state to state, I am sure that it also even varies from school to school. Perhaps though, as Conservation is taught more to college students (who might go on to teach children) it will permeate down to children at earlier stages in their education. I think that teachers must be convinced something is important and worthwhile before they will teach it to their students.
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    Jun 5 2012: I agree that publicity is an important component to conservation, but I believe that practicality also plays a large role in our efforts. Air travel is a huge component toward our carbon footprints, but it is almost a necessity for how our society runs. We all know that limiting our carbon footprint helps prevent global warming, but how practical is it to limit the number of flights we take in a year? We can try all we want to bring awareness to the issue, but until we also provide practical solutions to our problems, our efforts will be in vain.

    Developments in video conferencing are a great example of a technology that meets both these criteria. By using video conferencing, we can limit the number of business trips we have to make, both saving time and money for the people involved and also reducing the impact we make on the planet.
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      Jun 6 2012: Good point Rishi. I think more often than not, it is public inability rather than public awareness where many movements fall short, and the environmental movement is no exception. For example, I'm sure much of the public would utilize bike transportation as the main mode of travel if a more expansive and safe bike-lane system were in place in more US cities.

      I liken this ides to promoting recycling without having a recycling service in place. Awareness and education will only get you so far. Those concerned about the environment and sustainability should not forget about trying to implement the appropriate infrastructures needed as well.
    • Jun 6 2012: Great suggestion, Rishi. In this day and age there are many technological alternatives to traditional practices. The utilization of video conferences cuts down one contributions to our carbon footprint, including flights as mentioned above, but also on transport to and from the airport, and all of the energy and resources that would be used at a hotel stay. Not to mention the fact that video conferences cut down on overall monetary costs. We now have the means to create innovative alternatives that can be greener than traditional practices. Integrating these into the business world would also educate people who have left school on concepts of sustainability and conservation.
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    Jun 5 2012: The key to success in conversation science awareness (or whatever you want to call it) is to start implementing it into peoples lives at a young age. If they grow up with it the chance are it will be more successful since it will be the only way they know about. Where if you try to teach someone who is older lets say in their 60's they already know so many other ways for things to work in these situations it will be hard to teach them otherwise.
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      Jun 5 2012: I agree that we definitely need to work to improve education at a young age so that people can incorporate conservation into their initial understanding of the world. What are some way we can improve education and understanding now, even in people who have already left school?
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        Jun 6 2012: As far as educating older individuals of the public, I feel that we should be bringing more environmental organizations and environmental scientists into public forums. If we can get the scientific community and the general population in closer contact, and on a more regular basis, I think we can foster both learning and curiosity among citizens. Additionally, these public forums, be them public lectures or something else, could draw in multiple age groups and help us to span the age-gap that often forms in regard to the most current events.
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      Jun 6 2012: I completely agree that getting to children is one of the most important facets of change. It is a travesty in my opinion at how little is being taught in school. At the college level in a very progressive school, I hear about conservation, sustainability, etc. nearly every day in class but a lot of people rarely hear or think about it. If we educate the masses now, it should reap huge rewards in the future.