Conservation is very difficult.
When people say that something is not rocket science, I often reply that compared to the complexities of conservation, shooting a rocket into the sky is easy.
In conservation we deal with pretty much all conceivable interactions between people, the environment and millions of species. On top of that, politics, the economy and a range of other factors play major roles in conservation.
And there is further complication. Most people consider conservation as a luxury choice. Something they will commit to once more important issues, like the education of their children, the food on their table, their health and safety, their pension funds or the next game of their favorite football club have been adequately seen to.
Yes, we all like a bit of nature, especially while holding a cold beer. But how much are we willing to sacrifice in our personal lives for an improvement of the global state of nature?
That question is a bit unfair. Because we rarely know how much conservation we get out of a particular investment
One of the big problems in conservation is that we haven’t defined what success would actually look like. In contrast, we know failure when we see it. Conservation of the Javan tiger is a failure (see photo above), because it is now extinct. Easy.
But what is conservation success? Is it finding the last pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers, and breeding them back to a viable population? Or is it something much more broad and elusive: working together towards a world where happy people live in harmony with the environment and species around them?
We need clearly demonstrated successes on all fronts to show people what the world could look like if we managed it better. And we need to convince people that all their efforts towards such better management count.
Only once there is general agreement that conservation is essential for our own success on this planet will we make some real progress.
Maybe then I can kick back and enjoy the sunset with that cold beer. And who knows, when I am really relaxed, I may even try to solve some of the outstanding issues in rocket science.
(Image: Javan tiger. Credit: A. Hoogerwerf.)