Do we need a new compass bearing? In the midst of what is now considered to be the sixth mass extinction in the approximately 4.5-billion-year history of Earth, knowing that the primary agent of biodiversity loss (the aggregate impacts of human activities) is increasing in reach and intensity, it is perhaps understandable that some conservationists have lost their way, have given up hope, or are now suggesting that the goal of conservation be abandoned and reinvented. The(ir) argument goes something like this: There is no longer any wild land, what we have left is in a seminatural state (the product of human management and impacts), so we should think of ourselves more as gardeners who have to manage the planet carefully, ensuring that ecosystems remain healthy and providing people with food, water, and other ecosystem services; in brief, we need to “domesticate nature more wisely.”
Resetting the conservation goal to one of “wise gardening” is tempting in that it enables us to focus on manipulating species and biophysical processes as circumstances suit us, without reference to or regard for evolutionary and ecological legacies and processes. Such reorientation of conservation . . . also appeals to human hubris and vanity, suggesting it is people who are now in control of Earth and that we can manage our way out of this environmental crisis. . . .
Brendan Mackay, respected Australian ecologist, member of the International Union for Conservation, and science advisor to the Climate Change Commission, in his essay, “The Future of Conservation: An Australian Perspective,” offers some perceptive and stark opinions. Here we quote a portion of the essay and encourage you to read it in its entirety. It can be found in a collection of essays published by Island Press: Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth (2014).
--by Chuck Roe
Private land trusts are on the front lines in defending and advocating for the protection of the most extraordinary natural areas and ecological treasures in the southern U.S. Beyond landowners, no one is more important than private land trusts and conservancies in safeguarding our natural heritage.
I compose this essay in reaction to reading the recently adopted Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Strategic Plan for 2018-22. That plan and its proposed action steps are meritorious, ambitious, and logical in progressive evolution from the national association’s previous strategic plan. But I see a glaring omission in the LTA Plan’s introductory statement of purpose for the land trusts of America . . . >Read more HERE.
Against a backdrop of mutual challenges in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary from climate change and budget shortfalls, an updated partnership between Virginia and North Carolina is starting to flex its collaborative muscle with important border-blind issues: wetlands, algal blooms, and fish travel. A memorandum of understanding signed late last year paves the way. This article by Catherine Kozak from the Coastal Review Online tells the story . . . READ HERE.
--by Brenda Barrett
On October 23, 2017 conservationists gathered at National Geographic headquarters for an event called "Half Earth Day." Held six months after Earth Day, the "half"-themed event highlighted renowned biologist, naturalist, and author E.O. Wilson's big idea that fully half the planet must be declared protected marine and land habitats in order to save 80 percent of the world's species. This is landscape scale conservation at its most ambitious -- at the planetary level. READ MORE.
--by Bobby Whitescarver. Note: A different version of this essay was published as an OPED piece distributed by the Bay Journal News Service on October 17, 2017. Read that article here.
The Clean Water Act is now 45 years old, born in the U.S. Congress on October 18, 1972. Sometime before that date, the river of my childhood – the Roanoke River in southwestern Virginia – had been declared a fire hazard because of pollution.
I learned to water-ski on that river, or rather on one of the manmade lakes along its winding path. It was 1965 and I remember one of those skiing lessons in particular. Dad was the spotter, and his friend George was the driver. I jumped in the water and waited for the handles of the ski rope. When the tips of my skis were up and my butt down, I yelled, “forward!” As the boat began pulling me, I saw banana peels and “floaters” – human waste – drifting past. I was ten years old, and it gave me the heebie-jeebies. “Hit it,” I shouted, now doubly motivated to get up and out of the water.
America now has perhaps the best wastewater treatment in the world. . . .
Our hearts go out to all the communities recently impacted by catastrophic hurricanes and floods. The magnitude of devastation is shocking. Many of us are contributing to disaster relief funds, and wondering what more we can do. As climate change contributes to more intense storm events, there will be increased need for land conservation and water protection groups to be involved in community-based disaster preparedness and emergency response, and also in proactive conservation planning and public education to reduce vulnerabilities to flood and storm disasters. Many land and water conservation groups already are collaborating across sectors to build resilient ecological and social systems that mitigate the impact of natural disasters before they occur.
--Chuck Roe, President, Southern Conservation Partners
Over 70 years ago, Aldo Leopold wrote, "Conservation, viewed in its entirety, is the slow and laborious unfolding of a new relationship between people and land." That "unfolding" continues and we work for that goal.
This blog offers views of our Board and partners. We invite your viewpoint on the following thought-provoking questions: