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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 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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