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: If your education system is teaching science effectively, the concept of conservation should be a result. There is always a lag time though. Todays twelve year olds are taught about climate change and endangered species and the effects of over fishing etc. Twenty years from now these kids will be running for the senate with this knowledge as part of who they are. Its the over forties like me that lack the knowledge, unless your a sclince teacher, then you have to keep up.
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      Jun 5 2012: I am curious to see if you have any ideas on how we can keep those over forties involved and engaged? Is there a way we could educate so that they would want to participate and play a role in conservation?
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        Jun 5 2012: We have a system of recreational fishing licences here you pay 25 bucks a year to fish. The money is spent on research into fishing practices and to build artificial reefs and the like. The authorities will build a reef in one area to offset a no-fish zone in an adjacent area. The results of the research are made public on TV fishing shows, giving tips on how to recognise whether a fish is releasable etc. This allows you to only keep fish that were going to die anyway and not keep fish that would have survived if released. As EM says above it works because you are applying logical conservation practices to an activity that the fishos are invested in. Good conservation practices become a thing that they do, not just a thing that greenies do. Hopefully it spills over into other parts of their lives.
    • Jun 7 2012: I do agree that if our education system is teaching effectively that our next generation will understand the concepts of conservation. But I do not think this is occurring effectively all across the United States. Curriculum varies between states and without educators who have been educated in conservation the task seems nearly impossible without reforming how kids are being taught.
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        Jun 8 2012: I agree with you that education varies from state to state, I am sure that it also even varies from school to school. Perhaps though, as Conservation is taught more to college students (who might go on to teach children) it will permeate down to children at earlier stages in their education. I think that teachers must be convinced something is important and worthwhile before they will teach it to their students.

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