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 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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