How Does One Do More Conservation?
I have been reading a lot lately about equity, ethics and the different ways a scientist should frame and communicate their science and it has made me think a lot about how I can consciously acknowledge and incorporate these ideas into the conservation projects that I am working on.
Science vs Policy Advocacy
Firstly, what is conservation science? This question has lead to an eruption of debate whenever I bring it up in lab meetings or over beers and I find it particularly interesting to hear about how different people interpret their supposed research field. The interesting thing about conservation science as a research field is that its fundamental mission is to “protect or conserve biodiversity”, which is a very normative statement injected with value rather than positivism (fact-based) (note: yes one can argue that all scientific fields are fueled by values, but I think that it is amplified in conservation science/biology). A few great articles that I’ve read that explain ‘how to be a scientist’ and also when wearing your ‘policy advocating hat’ how does one communicate -> see references below (Lackey 2007; Brussard & Tull 2006; Chan 2008; Barry & Oelschlaeger 1996).
There has always been environmental and social research into conservation biology type questions but for a long time, this work has been conducted somewhat in parallel, with these two fields only integrating more recently. The multi-disciplinary nature of conservation science has lead to the use of skills from many different fields such as economics, ecology, planning, sociology and anthropology all integrating to some degree to form social-ecological systems research (Ostrom 2009; Folke 2006; Folke et al. 2005).
Equity is a very ambiguous term and can be used to describe many different costs and benefits within a community and system. Being able to reduce the social process of equity into a calculable value using either economic costs or resource availability can be challenging and the many other factors that interact with different costs and benefits may not enable once to capture “equality” within a singular value (Dietz & Atkinson 2010; Gurney et al. 2015; Escobedo et al. 2015). The Gini coefficient and other similar metrics gauge inequality, but these metrics fail to completely assess inequality(Law, In Press). Integrating social equity into biodiversity conservation decision-making processes has become more of a focus for many researchers especially those working in social-ecological systems (Adams et al. 2010; Grazia et al. 2004). There are different types of equity that can be found in different systems, I think that this paper provides a great visual example of these types, see Figure 1 (Klein et al. 2015).
In my opinion, social equity should be incorporated into every conservation hypothesis and project implicitly. This is important to understand especially when advocating for conservation policy, as some cases, there could be real social implications to your decision. Incorporating these ideas into conservation planning may enable more effective conservation outcomes and may minimise potential social impacts.
The ethical domain within conservation science and environmental decision making is broad and spans multiple scales of governance and multiple groups and group sizes from individuals to institutions. But how does a 23-year-old, caucasian, gay, moderately qualified, Australian woman be an ethical researcher? And are the ‘key qualities’ of an ethical researcher transferable across cultures and countries? This conservation ethics space is rapidly filling out with some great publications which are starting to explicitly look at ethical considerations and implications (Jax et al. 2013).
I think this question is one of those questions that will take me my whole career to answer but, I would love to know what all of you out there on the interweb think about these ideas. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestion for papers I should read or your opinions and advice etc.
References I found useful…
Adams, V.M., Pressey, R.L. & Naidoo, R., 2010. Opportunity costs: Who really pays for conservation? Biological Conservation, 143(2), pp.439–448. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2009.11.011.
Barry, D. & Oelschlaeger, M., 1996. A Science for Survival: Values and Conservation Biology. Conservation Biology, 10(3), pp.905–911.
Brussard, P. & Tull, J., 2006. Conservation Biology and Four Types of Advocacy. Conservation Biology, 21(1), pp.21–24.
Chan, K., 2008. Value and Advocacy in Conservation Biology: Crisis Dicipline or Discipline in Crisis? Conservation Biology, 22(1), pp.1–3.
Dietz, S. & Atkinson, G., 2010. The equity-efficiency trade-off in environmental policy: Evidence from stated preferences. Land Economics, 86, pp.423–443.
Escobedo, F.J. et al., 2015. Socio-ecological dynamics and inequality in Bogotá, Colombia’s public urban forests and their ecosystem services. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 14(4), pp.1040–1053. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2015.09.011.
Folke, C. et al., 2005. Adaptive Governance of Social-Ecological Systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 30, pp.441–473.
Folke, C., 2006. Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses. Global Environmental Change, 16, pp.253–267.
Grazia, B., Ashish, K. & Gonzalo, O., 2004. Indigenous and local communities and protected areas: Towards equity and enhanced conservation: Guidance on policy and practice for co-managed protected areas and community conserved areas, Gland, Switzerland.
Gurney, G.G. et al., 2015. Efficient and equitable design of marine protected areas in Fiji through inclusion of stakeholder-specific objectives in conservation planning. Conservation Biology, 29(5), pp.1378–1389.
Jax, K. et al., 2013. Ecosystem services and ethics. Ecological Economics, 93(May 2011), pp.260–268. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.06.008.
Klein, C. et al., 2015. Social equity and the probability of success of biodiversity conservation. Global Environmental Change, 35, pp.299–306. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.09.007.
Lackey, R., 2007. Science, Scientists, and Policy Advocacy. Conservation Biology, 21(1), pp.12–17.
Ostrom, E., 2009. A General Framework for Analyzing Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems. Source: Science, New Series, 325(5939), pp.419–422. Available at: http://www.jstor.org.