The Future of Conservation?
With populations on the rise, issues such as habitat loss, invasive species, and overexploitation are following suit. As technology and research advance alongside, we are hopeful that solutions to just some of these problems may come to light. The importance of conservation has never been greater, but we need to build numbers of skilled and competent individuals to help fight these issues. This, in essence, is termed capacity building.
97% of population growth is occurring in developing countries, where most global biodiversity simultaneously lies. It has been estimated that 1.3 billion 15-24 year olds reside in these areas; mobilising young leaders in conservation and environmental awareness is predicted to be a useful tool in the fight for the environment.
Conservation projects have been made increasingly aware of the necessity to involve and motivate communities and decision makers in the areas of study. For example, those residing in a national park will be clashing with those intent on making economic profits from the park’s resources, with those hoping to steal precious assets from the forest, with tourists hoping to visit beautiful landscapes within, and with those looking to protect the area for future generations. We found this to be the underlying problem during our research Expedition to Madagascar last year.
It is been noted that many conservation projects fail because of problems with managers, decision makers, and leadership. Science means nothing without successful communication of the problems and solutions; utilising local skills and young people passionate about the environment may help to alleviate these conflicts.
An integrated approach of internships, training, teaching, building networks, and mentoring is being conducted by many conservation initiatives such as ERT Conservation, Durrell’s DICE program, and the EDGE Fellowship (ZSL), to help inspire and motivate young people to influence society in the future. Indeed, the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) claim that 97% of 2500 alumni are now working in conservation. These organisations hope to increase training of individuals, award them internationally recognised qualifications, and evaluate the impacts of this training once the individual has been left to their own devices. However, quantifying the successes of these programs has yet to be certified.
Despite these efforts, we also need stake holders and local government policies to allow individuals to mobilise their learned skills and continue projects in-country. Building a capacity for change from the bottom-up may help fight those weighing down on conservation efforts from above.