TED Conversations

Lauren Hawkins


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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 4 2012: I have thought for a long while that conservation programs and educational programs about sustainable living and practices should be a part of school curriculum, and it should most definitely be a necessary credit in high school.
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      Jun 5 2012: I absolutely agree with you Bre. I have had that same thought since I first came to study environmental science at a University. Before I came here and got my job for the campus recycling, I had no clue what recyclables went where, and what is recyclable or compostable in general. I look back at my previous education in disappointment. To me, it seems ridiculous that I was never taught by anyone how to do these things and the importance of them. It seems that the only way to learn these things are through your own research or interest, or the benefit of your parent's research. If our governments claim to care in the slightest about reducing human impact on the environment, we need an environmental education program for minors, however simple and general, to truly change the way we live and impact the world around us.
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        Jun 5 2012: I agree, but I think our government has shown on several occasions that it doesn't necessarily care about our impact on the environment. Or at least they attach that to their platform, but creating jobs at the expense of the environment tends to come first to them. That being said, the general public may not support teaching conservation to children. When people tell me that caring about the environment is a hobby, I don't think that we are willing to force our children to learn the environmentalists' "crazy" dogma. I want nothing more than for the future generations to learn about biodiversity and conservation while they are young but extensive grassroots movements must be implemented to persuade enough of the public to jump on board. At the moment, only parts of the US would probably support it.

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