Category: Human Well-Being

Coasts at Risk Report Expands Thinking on Natural Hazards

Nature has an important role in preparing for, and recovering from, natural disasters on coasts around the world. A new report substantiates the link.

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A Voice for Sustainability: The People Behind Your T-Shirt

That cheap t-shirt you buy carries with it heavy costs for people and the environment. Can the factory workers and farmers behind that t-shirt have a voice in creating a more sustainable industry?

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An Ounce of Prevention Worth a Pound of Cure? Not for Poverty and Conservation

When a conservation project focuses on “poverty,” should it focus on poverty reduction, poverty prevention, or both? Social scientist Craig Leisher argues that we should focus on poverty reduction wherever the natural resources are heavily degraded…and poverty prevention wherever they are not.

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Mobile Text Surveys: A Smarter Way to Measure Conservation’s Impacts on People?

Eddie Game says a new Conservancy monitoring program in Kenya using SMS could revolutionize the way conservation monitors its effects on human well-being.

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Announcing SNAP: Because Everyone’s Prosperity Depends on Nature

Science for Nature and People (SNAP) debuts at the Clinton Global Initiative, and Mark Tercek says the collaboration will help the world better understand connections between healthy nature and human well-being.

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Research: Can Restoring Oyster Reefs Combat Nitrogen Pollution?

Oysters filter nitrogen from water — and nitrogen pollution is a huge and growing problem along many coastlines, not just for the United States, but worldwide. So could restoring oyster reefs combat nitrogen pollution? And if the answer is yes, could that service generate enough funding for broad-scale oyster restoration?

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In a Remote Alaska Rainforest, a Tribe Protects Habitat and Restores Culture

On Prince of Wales Island in Alaska, the restoration of rivers goes hand-in-hand with the restoration of cultural traditions. Members of the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, a federally recognized indigenous tribe, are learning scientific techniques to monitor and assess salmon streams, streams that have been degraded over the decades. But that’s only part of the story: the Haida area also returning to cultural traditions, traditions even more imperiled than the streams.

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Sawmills and the Limits of Conservation Science

Science must be the foundation of conservation work, of course. But here’s the thing: science can only get conservation so far. On Prince of Wales Island, forest restoration is an important part of conservation, but so too are relationships with loggers and sawmill owners.

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People and Nature: Announcing Our New Social Scientists

To solve today’s conservation problems, we need multi-disciplinary scientists who can look at how nature impacts people. Enter The Nature Conservancy’s 3 new social scientists, who will be working on the front lines of conservation for the benefit of people.

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New Study: Coastal Nature Reduces Risk from Storm Impacts for 1.3 Million U.S. Residents

Nature reduces risk from coastal storms for millions of U.S. residents and billions of dollars in property values, says a new study from scientists at the Natural Capital Project and The Nature Conservancy.

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Book Week: ‘Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty’

Nature Conservancy senior social scientist Craig Leisher reviews “Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty” by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo.

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Conservation Future: Announcing the 2013 NatureNet Fellows

Nine young scientists — with specialties ranging from energy infrastructure to urban ecology, Kenyan pastoral techniques to nanotechnology — inaugurate a program designed to help kick-start conservation toward addressing the challenges facing people and nature in the 21st century.

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Cool Green Scientist: Anne Bradley

Anne Bradley is The Nature Conservancy’s forest conservation program director in New Mexico. Find out in this interview why the “sky islands” of the Jemez Mountains inspire her, why singing in bear country is a very good idea, and why conservation has always been about people’s values.

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‘Let’s Get Back to Ecology’: A New Interview with Peter Kareiva

Nature Conservancy Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva recently gave an interview to Biodiverse Perspectives, a blog written by more than 100 graduate students in biodiversity science around the world. It’s an excellent Q&A, with one of the best distillations yet of Kareiva’s thinking on conservation’s focus on biodiversity versus the benefits of a broader focus on ecology.

Read the full interview here. But here’s a quote to whet your appetite:

“I have what some think is a heretical view of biodiversity.  Look – I do want to prevent extinctions.  But I think what should be a reasonable concern for biodiversity has turned into a numerological and narrow counting of species, and has led to an over-emphasis on research aimed at rationalizing why biodiversity should matter to the general public.  Ecology matters to the general public because ecology is about water, pests and pestilence, recreation, food, resilience and so forth. Perturbations to ecosystems in the form of massive pollution, land conversion, harvest, species loss can all distort ecology.  But focusing so narrowly on producing graphs that on the horizontal axis display number of species and on the vertical axis report some dependent ecological function (that is distantly related to human well-being) strikes me as not worth so much research.  Let’s get back to ecology – understanding how systems work, what controls dynamics, the role of particular species as opposed to the number of species, to what extent do ecosystems compensate for species losses, what factors contribute to resilience, whether there really are thresholds – all those are terrific research questions.  Counting species, and trying to produce what is, as far as I can tell, usually very weak evidence for the relationship between biodiversity per se and ecological function is off-track.

“Early on in my job at TNC I presented to business leaders some of the empirical data plots from classic biodiversity and ecological function studies. These are studies we all interpret as strong evidence for the importance of biodiversity. I can tell you unequivocally when they saw the actual data they were totally unimpressed and unconvinced. It caused me to look more objectively at the data.”

As always, let us know what you think in the comments.

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Adapting the Science of Adaptation – The Importance of Seeing Through Others’ Eyes

Helping people and nature adapt to climate change is a hot topic in conservation.

But the science behind planning such adaptation — particularly for human communities — isn’t as clean as the rhetoric, and you can’t do it simply in a lab or on paper. Whether we’re talking about major developed world cities or small coastal villages, we have to run our theories by what we call the “test of people” — so they lead to strategies that work. That test often involves understanding how the world looks through the eyes of the people we are trying to help. Nothing like a good reality check.

Case in point: My recent trip to the Grenadines, where I was attending an “action planning meeting” with community members, my colleagues from The Nature Conservancy’s ‘At The Water’s Edge’ project team, and our local partners. Our aim: to identify specific actions that can be taken to help reduce the communities’ vulnerability to coastal hazards (i.e., flooding from sea level rise and storm surge). As conservationists, we hope nature might be a part of the equation — what we call “nature-based adaptation.”

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Diverse Conservation

Call for Inclusive Conservation
Join Heather Tallis in a call to increase the diversity of voices and values in the conservation debate.

What is Cool Green Science?

noun 1. Blog where Nature Conservancy scientists, science writers and external experts discuss and debate how conservation can meet the challenges of a 9 billion + planet.

2. Blog with astonishing photos, videos and dispatches of Nature Conservancy science in the field.

3. Home of Weird Nature, The Cooler, Quick Study, Traveling Naturalist and other amazing features.

Cool Green Science is managed by Matt Miller, the Conservancy's deputy director for science communications, and edited by Bob Lalasz, its director of science communications. Email us your feedback.

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The challenge: find a chicken-sized bird in a million-acre expanse of rugged canyons & bad roads. Infrared video to the rescue.

Wildlife Videos In Infrared
Infrared enables us to see minor variations in temperature. See how this technology is revolutionizing conservation science.

Nature As Normal
TNC Lead Scientist Heather Tallis is researching how to make people see nature as critical to life through three lenses: education, water and poverty.

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