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 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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