Learn Conservation and Sustainability

June 27, 2020

If you're seriously worried about the future of our planet our planet and the next generations of animals and humans, give Dr. Jane Goodall's Masterclass a watch:

Watch, listen, and learn as legendary naturalist Dr. Jane Goodall shares decades of her work and obervations.

Lessons include topics like Chimpanzee Behavior, Animal Intelligence, Humans & The Environment, Threats to Animals, Animal Cruelty, Climate Change, Water and Land Sustainability, Industrial Agriculture, Organic Farming, Food Activism, Advocacy Strategies, Communication, Global Change, and Reasons for Hope.

How can a person get involved in helping wildlife and conservation?

Just send out an email to various organizations (even game and fish) and say you are interested. A lot have sites that talk about the things they are already doing and ways you can get involved too. Do you have an audubon society around? They are great to get involved with as well.

How to get into conservation if you're still in school

Does your school offer any type of biology degree?Conservation training can be obtained by volunteering small amounts of time over several years. While it would be useful to enroll specifically in a conservation degree, you can likely enroll in a number of relevant courses by a different avenue. Yes, talk to your counselor and ask about courses in ecology, zoology, botany, etc., that you may have access to.

In the US, a lot of university classes for conservation also focus on plant life. Also, check out zoo science. It’s probably only a US major (it’s rare and still relatively newish) but you could always study abroad?

How does working in the convervation infustry actually look like? Are there any cerifications that you should get?

And can you make any money in this field?

First off, there is no conservation industry. An industry is something that makes money, conservation does not make money. As far as "certifications"- that sort of stuff varies heavily from state to state, and it's up to you to research how your state manages land and regulates the environment. If you want to make a career out of it, go to school and get a BS and MS in a geoscience.

Does your state's environmental commission test water? You could get a water monitoring certification.

The work is draining. I do things as a volunteer, and the amount of apathy I see from the general public and people working in local conservation departments is nuts. We had a highway put through a nature preserve with endangered species a few years back.

Earlier this year friend who is an biologist said "I know it's bad that it went through the preserve, but it's really handy having this connect everything". And that pretty much sums it up. You fight the good fight until your fight gets inconvenient for people, and then they stop caring about what you are fighting for.

The feds are basically not hiring at all right now in the U.S. they are just moving people internally, and most state agencies are in a similar boat so finding full time employment is pretty difficult and with the way the government is treating science and the DoInterior right now I don't expect that to change on a federal level anytime soon.

Does habitat mitigation help animals?

Even when it's done, mitigation doesn't move animals. Even if you create 1000 acres of habitat to replace the 10 acres you destroyed, you don't bring all the wildlife with it. Things that can fly will move in, and larger mammals too, but not all wildlife is able to move large distances to new habitat. All the insects, spiders, reptiles, amphibians, rodents, and other animals with small home ranges will just be gone.

Another issue I have witnessed with mitigation, is that if you have say 1000 acres of good habitat. Just don't manage it properly. Then when you want to develop 100 acres of it, you say "You know, as mitigation, we will work to restore 100 acres of the property to good habitat! So now you have 100 acres of good habitat, 900 of shitty habitat, and 100 developed. Then you keep restoring part of it while developing the other part. Eventually you end up with 500 acres developed and 500 acres of good habitat right? Well, just wash, rinse and repeat. Let the 500 acres go to shit again, then say you want to develop half of it, and that you will restore the other half as mitigation. Everyone has forgotten that the site used to be 1000 acres at this point. And again, this isn't a made up hypothetical, it's something currently happening on a site I am working on.

Can ecology ever win against capitalism and economic growth?

It's not just about economic growth. The highway could have been moved a bit further north and still served it's purpose. One of the excuses for not doing so, was that it would cause urban sprawl, and destroy more habitat. The thing is, the area north is already developed with houses and corn fields. Nothing would have been lost.

And, not only did the highway go through a state preserved with a few endangered species, it also went through a private property that was found to have another, and now there is development happening in that area. The kicker is though, that the highway wasn't enough apparently. Now it's been decided that paved bike trail has to go through the area. Right over top of two areas that are known to be snake hibernacula.

Why moving animals from one place to another doesn't always work

It really depends on the species. There is a borer moth that requires Rattlesnake Master to live. Rattlesnake Master has been planted in prairies all over the place, but the moths are only found in the prairies that were never plowed up in the first place. Some of the best places to see them are where there are very small, only an acre or so, of prairie left over along side railroad tracks. The railroads came through first, and the farmers that came later didn't plow right up to them, and some things are hanging on. Their home range isn't very big.

There is even debate now about burn practices in prairie management. It's pretty standard to burn a whole prairie property in one go, or to split it into two parts, and do them subsequent years. But people are trying to get land managers to burn an acre or so at a time, to make sure that the insects have time to move back into the burned area from the surrounding areas. The 50 acre property I am doing turtle work on, has two small patches of bird-foot violets (I think I said prairie violets in a different comment somehwere) that are used by Regal Fritillary Butterflies.

If you burned both of those areas at the same time, the butterflies would be gone from the property, and there is no where else for them to fly in from. In the specific case of the butterflies, you may actually see them fly in to a restored prairie, but that can be a bad thing. They are attracted to all sorts of flowers, and will lay eggs on just about anything, but the caterpillars have to find certain species of violets. They won't eat anything else.

The violets are hard to cultivate though for introduction into recreated prairies. If you recreate a new prairie, you may very well see many of these butterflies fly into it if they are in the surrounding areas, but it's an illusion of persistence. They will lay their eggs on all the newly planted flowers, but the caterpillars will not find any of the violets they need, and the species will die.

Not only that, but I was recently told that there is evidence to suggest that recreated prairies around populations of these butterflies, can cause the populations to decline in the existing prairies. The adults leave the existing prairies, and fly to the new ones due to all the flowers, and then the caterpillars don't survive.

What can a software developer do to help the conservation of endangered species?

The only things I can think of off the top of my head are anabat and sonobat technologies. Bat biologists use the software packages to analyse bat calls picked up by remotely placed sensors. The creators of these technologies are avid bat conservationists, and may have something for a software engineer to do.

The other thought I had was to maybe go to a wildlife/conservation conference. There are dozens of these every year, and in addition to learning about the things that interest you, you could network with people in the field who may have a use for your skills. In any case, cheers for the interest in conservation, and good luck with your search!

Can climate change be reversed? How do you think it will all work out?

All numbers say we are beyond the tipping point right now. Right now, we are seeing the results of emmissions from 20-30 years ago. The shit will hit the fan in 50-100 years.

We started a chain reaction that we can only slow down. The more ice that melts less reflective the earth becomes warming the planet even more. Green house gasses trapped in the ice also are going to add to it. And the organic material trapped under the ice can add more gases.

Beyond sea level rise, harsher weather events will increase that could really fuck up growing seasons through droughts in some areas and wetness rotting crops in other areas. Then we got a potential for dormant pathogens defrosting and causing an epidemic. Then we'll have climate refugees, which will probably cause wars.

So my thoughts. It's gonna suck bit-time.

I think the human race will survive, though. Civilization as we know it will be changed forever however. Faith in geoengineering, CO2 scrubbers, or being able to build bunkers that withstand the true strength of nature is misplaced.

The summary is that due to the changes in the weather patterns and extreme weather events, it will become suicide to rely on food and supplies coming from far away, so you need to learn to grow your own food, make things from scratch in general, plant identification, and how to secure water for your homestead.

Due to heatwaves and more powerful storms, people will rely more on air conditioning, and with that higher demand for electricity and an aging infrastructure and possible damages to it, many will suffer and die from exposure. If you have young kids and are thinking about how the grandkids will live, you want them to be settled as adults as far away from the equator. Either go far North (Great Lakes/New England/Cascadia/Alaska/Sweden/Norway) or far South (Argentina/Chile/Tasmania/New Zealand). Preferably in a country with basic human rights too.

The rich citizens have bought islands, decommissioned nuclear silos, hydroponic systems. It will increase their chances of survival but only for the short term, before the poor will, figurively, eat them.

The rest of survival will come down to pure chance - what continent are you stuck on when air/sea transportation infrastructure finally crumbles? Can you run for miles if needed? Did you go to beg for water from the tanker with the first angry mob or the second angry mob where someone detonated a bomb?

My only hope is, if all of this happens, that humanity may come out a better version of itself. If they learn from history they could surpass us and come out better off. It will be our trial by fire.

How do you encourage sustainability in the workplace?

You'll probably want to encourage PLA plastics for the gloves. PLA is biodegradable and compostable. The biggest problem is that it has a fairly low heat tolerance, starts to get soft in "hot car in the sun" types of temperatures.

Here's a UK provider of PLA food prep gloves.

Consider what are likely your managements' two bigger concerns than sustainability: consumer health regulations and money. You'll need to show that any changes you'd like to make wouldn't negatively affect the bottom line (much) and also won't bring down the wrath of the health inspector's office. They're not just going to take your word for it, since ultimately it's their ass on the line and not yours. You can get another job, but they'll be losing their own investment in the business.

If you can get them to agree to sustainability, you can also advertise it to customers, some of whom might be willing to pay a premium for foods from the "green" bakery.

Do you experience eco-anxiety and what to do about it?

Yes, of course. How could I not? The challenge is not to suppress your awareness, however. I think the challenge is to transform this anxiety into purposeful action. Be aware and active. Set goals and achieve them.

I spend time with quite a few ecologists and related professionals such as wildlife guides and wardens etc, mainly 40 to 50 years plus also some younger guys, several are highly regarded in very good positions, all of us have 20 plus years experience, across the entire group everybody has come to the conclusion that it is a silent spring type moment, ecological breakdown, habitat loss, pollution, insect loss, fungi, we have all seen such a biodiversity loss in our lives. It is shocking watching youngsters and the newly enthusiastic running around excited searching for rare examples of once common species.

Sure the U.K. is a crowded and developed place, and the story is very nuanced with improvements and stabilisation in populations due to targeted conservation work. Leaving climate change out of it, habitat loss, the impacts of water abstraction, drainage, pollution and agro-chemicals, and direct exploitation such as rhino etc, even just the impact of human disturbance at population levels we have reached all are having a vast impact. I find the eutrophication of plant communities from NOx and the general ease of tidying up mentality due to machines and herbicides is producing a bland uniformity with some very successful generalists and many of specialist species requiring successional stages and low nutrient levels in great decline.

How it effects you personally depends on personality type and choice, but I would say my peer group is very unhappy and struggling, but also plodding on!

Is hunting really good for conservation and wildlife?

As far I know, hunting is generally good in two ways.

  • It gets people to care about conservation & management. Nobody cared more than hunters when the wood duck was almost hunted to extinction- because hunters want to hunt wood duck! It's simple self-interest, but it's useful.

  • When predators have been removed, hunters are a tool for managing population of prey animals. Never as good as the predators, but better than nothing.

Trophy hunting of apex predators is not normally directly good for that animal. An apex predator's population size is already managed by food supply. Maybe if hunters only picked off the weak bears, but what trophy hunter goes after the scraggly sick one?

The main arguments "for" trophy hunting of apex predators that I am aware of are:

  • we need/want money
  • expensive tags bring money to conservation programs. As is sometimes observed, conservation is valued most by communities with the money to care. "The surest way to promote sustainable environmental policies around the world is to increase economic growth and the standard of living in poor countries."
  • lastly, using Africa as an example, some have argued that legal, managed trophy hunting of certain heavily-poached animals would make it economically worthwhile to heavily protect those animals from unmanaged poaching. Basically a lesser-of-two-evils.

Anyway, so in my opinion I'm not really in favor of trophy hunting, but if you're going to do it, charge a lot of money per tag.

Going further, I don't really believe hunting is "ideal" or "an absolute win". In a truly perfect world, all the wildlife would simply be left alone, and probably be the better for it.

But in our imperfect world, where we are actively screwing up the natural world, hunting can be a tool for the greater good to undo some of the damage.

The main challenge with hunters & prey species is some start feeling like easy pickings are their god-given right. They begin to push for reduction of the predator species in the misguided attempt to boost prey population. See Colorado Parks & Wildlife, for example, which is now killing lions & bears to boost mule deer, despite their own research showing it doesn't even work.

Example — Elk population in the US:

Elk herds are down in a big way, but they were way too large at the time wolves were reintroduced. Huge drops are very possibly just part of "return to normal".

http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2016/apr/studies-confirm-effect-wolves-elk-tree-recovery-yellowstone-national-park

Also, the trend reversed in 2015, which suggests we're nearing equilibrium (see any graph of attenuation https://perso.univ-rennes1.fr/lalaonirina.rakotomanana-ravelonarivo/sg_attenuation.jpg and call the axis "Elk count" and "time")

http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2015/feb/05/yellowstone-elk-show-increase-latest-count/

How can WE make the world a better place?

At macro scale, at least 40% of western countries deny climate change. Climate change has a pretty strong lobby. In the end people want to eat meat, and want cheap consumer goods. How can we get people to care about Orangutans if people don't even care about their own future?

I agree capitalism is the culprit, but in the end it's US. What makes it not fatalistic is that we CAN change, in lue of corporations. We DO have choice. We DO have a voice. My problem is that often people hide behind the myth of determinism. When you put the responsibility outside of yourself then indeed it does become a deterministic problem.

Just to be sure, I agree completely that companies in the rule try to hide their wrongdoings and keep the consumer in the dark. I'm saying that that is to be expected under capitalism. And at the same time, consumers to some extent choose to, or like to be held in the dark. That way they feel they bear less responsibility.

Be positive though! One of the most valuable spiritual lessons I've ever learned is that the strength of my values is not proportional to the strength of my emotions. The amount I care about the environment is exactly the same regardless of my emotions. Whether I am angry or sad or happy, my stance on environmental issues remains constant and unwavering. I do not need to feel outraged in order to believe that something is wrong and should not be happening.

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