Is there a bias against telling conservation success stories?
Maybe. Ask yourself if you know about these good news stories:
- South Korea, almost denuded after the Korean War, now boasts forest cover across more than 63 percent of the country.
- In Namibia, wildlife populations are increasing.
- South Africa has completed a major expansion of Kruger National Park.
- Iraqi engineers have reflooded the Tigris–Euphrates marshes.
- Pioneering legislation has slowed species loss around the world, including the Bird Directive of the EU, the Habitats Directive of the EU and the US Endangered Species Act of 1973.
- In Australia, large-scale land clearing has been halted and most of the rainforest in the country is now contained within World Heritage sites.
- The largest marine protected area in the world was recently enacted by one of the poorest nations on Earth, Kiribati.
- The Antarctic Treaty has conserved more than 14 percent of our global land area—18 million square kilometers/6.5 million square miles—for longer than 50 years.
This from a new study by Stephen Garnett and David Lindenmeyer . The authors believe that a bias may exist against conservation success stories, as follows:
Delivering bad conservation news seems to earn status among conservationists, not unlike an underclass seeking status within its own subculture, driving away many who might otherwise support its tenets. But conservation cannot afford to be a separate subculture. A surfeit of despair and fear engenders disempowerment, denial and a failure to act. Conversely, change and political support are achieved through carefully targeted messages that empower people. Such a plea is not to engender misplaced optimism in the face of perilous odds, but rather to promote hope, demonstrate what can be achieved and how to achieve it. Researchers need to provide the science not only for the campaigns lamenting environmental loss, but also, most importantly, for those celebrating the effectiveness of conservation.
I think they have a good point. Thanks to Julia Whitty and this article in Mother Jones for highlighting this paper.