Should we be optimistic about the future of the earth? (commentary)

first_imgArticle published by Erik Hoffner Commentary, Conservation, Editorials, Endangered Species, Endangered Species Act, Environment After the Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit, it is clear that much can be accomplished in conservation with creative thinkingThe author of “Running with Rhinos: Stories from a Radical Conservationist” calls for more collaboration and less litigationThis post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay. My wife and I attended the presidential inauguration in January. Of course, I thought I knew who was going to be elected. But, my wife reminds me often that my best guesses sometimes are wide of the mark! David Barron, Chairman of the ICCF Group, had read my book, “Running with Rhinos: Stories from a Radical Conservationist” and so, prior to the election, last fall had invited us to attend the ICCF Gala. That’s the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, a long-winded title for a group supporting congressional members interested in wildlife conservation overseas.Having worked on wildlife in Africa and coral reef assessments in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, I figured it was an opportunity to meet some interesting folks.The ICCF Gala held the night before the inauguration was in fact a hoot. It was a black tie event, but David Barron wore safari khakis. Bo Derek was there among other Hollywood stars. We sat with the Portuguese Ambassador. I ran into folks I’d worked with in East Africa. Top brass from Volkswagen, USA were celebrating the donation of 19 four-wheel drive vehicles for South Africa’s rhino protection programs.Following the Inauguration, we had breakfast with an old friend, Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Kirk mentioned a Summit the Smithsonian was going to hold in April, surprisingly titled the Earth Optimism Summit. I’m a risk-taker and natural-born optimist, so working in conservation the last 17 years has sometimes been a drag. It seems like most environmentalists are beyond pessimistic. The movement is full of gloom and doom. They act like we should all fall on our swords.I managed to weasel my way into a couple of spots at the Summit, a panel on the “Philanthropy Roundtable” session and a Judge at the “Make for the Planet” contest, where contestants are given 48 hours to come up with some wild-assed solution to an intractable problem from nature. Right up my alley!By the third day of the Summit, I had come up with two new sayings describing my experience (I’m a storyteller and public speaker. I want to be a stand-up comedian for my third career, but my wife tells me to ‘keep your day job’. Rather rude, considering I’m retired. Anyway, I’m always looking for new material.)Innovation Commons at the Summit. Image courtesy of Smithsonian Conservation CommonsMy first Great New Insight had to do with the Summit’s location at the Ronald Reagan Building. “This building,” I said to anyone who would listen, “is a human maze designed by rats.” Catchy, huh? If that didn’t get someone’s attention, my second comment about the Summit would be, “I never did drugs growing up. This must be what it feels like to be stoned for three days.” I was beyond happy.How come? Well, I’ve been working in conservation using the Aldo Leopold land ethic. Unlike the old environmental movement, we were bringing stakeholders together to solve conservation problems. The old paradigm was about people and business being the enemies of the environment. So, the approach was to pass laws, regulate, and then “sue the bastards” (a quote from Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund). I was convinced that cooperative and collaborative processes would help solve conservation problems better and faster than suing people.My talk at the Philanthropy Roundtable session focused on an example: The Cooperative Sagebrush Initiative. In 2005, we mobilized all the stakeholders, including businesses like natural gas companies, ranchers, communities, scientists, state and federal agencies, all to work together and fund experimental approaches to improve and restore habitat for the greater sage grouse, a ground-nesting bird whose original range was about 200 million acres of the American West.Greater sage grouse, image via Wikimedia CommonsA lawsuit had been filed to get the grouse listed under the Endangered Species Act, which could wreck the economy of the American West. We developed Ecosystem Services Payments (for private land conservation), offsite mitigation payments (under the National Environmental Policy Act regulations), and protection for private landowners who were willing to allow the reintroduction and stewardship of the greater sage grouse using “Safe Harbor” and “Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances” (CCAAs) – all revolutionary approaches to conservation. The projects were designed to get conservation going on private and public lands and protect property rights of landowners at the same time.After a three-year period of experimental projects, the federal agencies co-opted our voluntary efforts and threatened anyone who wanted to work with us. For example, mitigation funds negotiated by the Bureau of Land Management were often not used for their stated purpose, i.e. environmental mitigation in the development area. At Jonah Gas Field, the BLM demanded $28 million and used $19 million to build themselves new offices in Pinedale, Wyoming. When gas drillers demanded the mitigation funds be used for offsite species conservation, they were threatened by the BLM to the effect that they would not get their development plans approved if they worked with us.Pitches for the Planet session at the Summit. Image courtesy of Smithsonian Conservation CommonsEven so, 12 years later, the sage grouse had been so successfully recovered using many of our approaches that the Secretary of Interior was able to announce that, due to public-private partnerships, the bird had been so convincingly recovered that the sage grouse would never have to be listed. Everyone won, nobody died.After my talk, I was bombarded by Summit participants who wanted to tell me their own tales of successful collaborative conservation. Here I was, at a meeting where about 1,500 participants were talking a language that included the concepts of working together, of developing and passing on successes that could be used by other groups. Talk after talk was about positive approaches to problems that the public, informed by a national media (whose business model is ‘disasters sell advertising’), thought were impossible to solve.So here’s what I learned at the Smithsonian Summit: we are not going extinct. We have the capacity to solve, through changes in behavior and technology, the current negative impacts humanity is having on the Earth. Each of us needs to do our part. Get out there and volunteer. Support conservation locally while you think globally. Invest in new technologies. Have heart, but at the same time, use your brains.center_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more