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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 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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