Category: Human Well-Being

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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Bristol Bay Blog, Part 2: The Salmon Portfolio

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part blog on the Conservancy’s recent research at Bristol Bay, conducted to provide a risk assessment of the proposed Pebble Mine. Yesterday’s blog covered background and research methods.

This is a land shaped by salmon—in ways large and small, apparent and obscure. Fly over Bristol Bay, and the impact of salmon is everywhere, in literally every living thing.

“Salmon built much of the Alaska we see today,” says Dave Albert, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy in Alaska. “At historic levels of abundance, salmon are a fundamental driver of any ecological system they inhabit. They’re in the bears and the eagles and the trees and the berries and the people.”

Unlike at most salmon-producing regions of the world, at Bristol Bay scientists can still study a full and functioning salmon ecosystem. The sockeye salmon populations in this region are the most productive in the world. These stocks have contributed an estimated 51 percent of all global sockeye production since 1970. And there are four other salmon species found here as well.

The life history of salmon is well documented. Salmon are hatched in freshwater streams. After growing large enough to make the lengthy journey, they swim to the sea. In the ocean, they grow large while eating smaller fish.

After two to four years, they return to the stream of their birth, lay eggs that will become a new generation of salmon, and die. Their bodies become food for bears and a whole host of other scavengers. Bits of salmon flesh are gobbled by rainbow trout, char and other fish. They nourish algae in the water that provides food for aquatic insects that in turn become food for the next generation of salmon offspring.

“Salmon are in essence a nutrient-delivery system,” says Albert. “They bring nutrients from the rich marine environment to the nutrient-poor rivers and lakes, generation after generation.”

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This Week on Cool Green Science: Change & The Eastern U.S. Forest

Too many deer. Logging one tree to save another. Beavers versus old growth. Welcome to forest conservation in the Anthropocene. Beginning Monday, July 21, join us for a provocative 5-part series exploring the full complexity facing forest conservation in the eastern United States.

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Osprey Cam: Watch Our Wild Neighbors
Watch the ospreys live 24/7 as they nest and raise their young -- and learn more about these fascinating birds from our scientist.

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.

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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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Investing in Seagrass
Marine scientists and fishers alike know that grass beds are valuable as nursery habitat. A new Conservancy-funded study puts a number to it.

Drones Aid Bird Conservation
How can California conservationists accurately count thousands of cranes? Enter a new tool in bird monitoring: the drone.

Creating a Climate-Smart Agriculture
Can farmers globally both adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change? A new paper answers with a definitive yes. But it won't be easy.

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