Lucas Bainbridge, a Sixth Form student from London, shares his thoughts on conservation, why we should protect the natural world and why his generation must act. Lucas has an interest in conservation and is planning to study geography at University; he is volunteering for Action for Conservation.
What is conservation? Conservation is the idea that we should not deplete something; whether that be in nature, say an animal or plant, or energy or indeed most quantifiable matter. Conservation should not be a subject tossed aside, it is something that directly affects us all in ways we may or may not be aware of.
“A society is defined not only by what it creates but also by what it refuses to destroy” – John C. Sawhill
A common theme that resurfaces when considering the topic of conservation is the idea that it is simply ‘helping the environment’. Well, to a certain extent it is. However this only encompasses one part of conservation; by definition it is the idea of not depleting a resource. Therefore, the nature of this resource will ultimately change the effect that conserving this stock has on the world. If it is indeed conservation in the Amazon Rainforest, then this will benefit the environment, but we must not forget the ramifications on human population this will indefinitely have. Reducing the programmes of ‘slash and burn’ as well as others, will not only help certain rainforests rejuvenate, but it will also allow sequestration of carbon dioxide (if on a large enough scale), so we must be careful how we throw about the word conservation and its implicit meaning; whilst it may have an effect on the natural world, we must not look past the basic idea that we as homo sapiens are still animals and inhabitants of the natural world.
We have a great many scales of conservation, with contributors from all corners of the world. This could be a local project; near my hometown of Woodford, there is a project called Recycles, run by the Salvation Army and supported by the Borough of Redbridge. This is one type of conservation, promoting the recycling of bicycles, meaning that heavily used resources are not simply discarded, but reconditioned and then sold again. On the other hand we have national initiatives, sometimes introduced by the government, but often assisted by many Non-Governmental Organisations. For example in Indonesia, there are large scale reforestation schemes such as is happening in the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve in Borneo, where saplings are planted and the local people are educated in preserving their local wildlife habitats and ecosystems.
Another interesting aspect to conservation is the timescale. Through different historical documents we have found that the beginning of what appears to be conservation or resource management, dates back to the early religious and philosophical writings. Certainly we have evidence of 18th century conservation in parts of then British India. How is it then that several centuries and potentially millennia later, predictions estimate that “up to 50% of all species on the planet will disappear with the next 50 years”?This is a disastrous thought, and we need to act now. There are brilliant examples of modern innovation. One of my favourites is Ecologist Lian Pin Koh’s use of drones to monitor and help conservation efforts. We need further innovations and efforts from the next generation, my generation, if we really want to make a difference.
In my opinion conservation should not be a part of economic-fed resource management, but self-inspired thought towards our natural environment. That is not to say that resource management is not important, but instead that there should be a sense of obligation for us all to help out in any way we can. There are many sceptics, and those who generalise about the environment, but I find this quote deals with this perception rather nicely:
“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not / to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering”
– Aldo Leopold, ‘A Sand County Almanac’