When I was a kid, I dreamed of working for The Nature Conservancy because I thought that their method of conserving nature was ingeniously simple: Buy and set aside land so that it can’t be developed and so all the cute furry animals have a place to live.

Of course, the Conservancy’s methods of conservation were always a little more scientifically robust than that, but at 10 years of age, it was all I needed to know.

And when I was 10 years old, climate change was a distant, if unheard of, concern.

Climate change is at the forefront of environmental issues today. And climate isn’t the only thing that has changed: Major conservation organizations — including The Nature Conservancy — are moving away from traditional conservation methods like establishing rigid park boundaries and conservation easements to include climate change adaptation.

As The Washington Post said on Sunday:

…the old paradigm of setting aside tracts of land or sea to preserve species that might otherwise disappear is no longer sufficient.

Saving land won’t save us from climate change.

When I first heard of climate change adaptation as a conservation method, I thought it sounded like a concession to climate change. A band-aid for our fossil fueled-gluttony. Like, “Ok, just come on and do your climate change thing, we’ll figure out some way to deal with you.”

But the fact is that climate change is not only coming. It’s here. And we have to figure out a way to save plants and animals — and their habitat — from being completely destroyed by the impacts of climate change.

Think about it: Stronger storms and rising seas, two impacts of climate change, are already happening around the United States. Wetlands are nature’s perfect antidote to these impacts — but the wetlands need to be healthy and intact to do the job right.

So the Conservancy and others are shifting their conservation focus towards ensuring habitats are resilient to the coming changes.

This, of course, requires funding. According to the Post, conservation groups are beginning to calculate the cost of this kind of work so that government officials have a heads up.

Conservation groups have to start preparing for an uncertain future now. They have no choice but to.

What do you think?

(Image: Eroding shoreline on Albemarle Sound, N.C. Credit: Jennifer Henman/TNC.)

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