Environmentalists who work to promote the recovery of endangered plants and animals are often faced with the challenge of how to best motivate the public.
Environmentalists who work to promote the recovery of endangered plants and animals are often faced with the challenge of how to best motivate the public. Should we describe the alarming decline of a beloved creature to spur action, or communicate a rare but inspiring success story to restore hope?
The best way to frame recovery efforts for species on the brink isn’t just about how we communicate with others; it’s also relevant to the way we approach our work. Efforts to reverse trends that threaten the survival of wildlife can be difficult to sustain. It is sometimes extremely difficult to stay energetic and positive in the face of the continuing and demoralizing decline of species.
Fortunately, a half-full glass approach to framing species at risk recovery has emerged. It wasn’t from a communications team or a public engagement think tank as one might imagine; rather, it was developed by people working around the world to stop extinction and advance recovery.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which assesses the global status of species using a “red list” to differentiate levels of danger, introduced the concept of “green list” to assess levels of danger. feasibility of recovery and successful conservation.
âWarnings of impending extinctions are not the only way to catalyze conservation efforts,â says IUCN. âWe also need an optimistic view of species conservation that presents a roadmap for how to conserve a species and achieve its recovery. This is necessary to encourage positive conservation actions and programs. To achieve this, the Red List assessment process needs to be broadened to include conservation success classifiers. IUCN is currently creating a new set of measures to achieve this.
This framing gives conservation practitioners a much broader, often more encouraging, picture than just assessments of the status of species. Like the online magazine Yale Environment 360 describes, “While the low Sumatran rhino number may well keep it critically endangered for decades to come, its assessment of green status places its long-term recovery potential at nearly 50%,” meaning that continued conservation efforts over the next century could take the species almost halfway to full recovery … for a species that has long been considered a bit more hardy than a museum exhibit , it’s a radical change in his narrative, which may well lead to new commitments of money and effort. “
The emerging framework can also play a vital role in changing business-as-usual practices. The popular Canadian approach to government-led recovery initiatives is âpriority threat managementâ. It is detailed in the study “Prioritizing Recovery Funding to Maximize Conservation of Endangered Species,” which focuses on a region of southern Saskatchewan and uses a model to assess recovery options for species at risk based, among other things. factors, perceived profitability. remedial measures. As the report notes, âhere we show that we can take limited resources for endangered species much further by prioritizing investments in management strategies that recover the greatest number of species at the lowest cost.
This approach may seem sensible, but the David Suzuki Foundation has expressed concerns about the cost-effectiveness of becoming the dominant filter in such settings, as it could exclude much-needed conservation approaches and result in the abandonment of some species. For example, the Saskatchewan report notes that habitat restoration was one of the âleast profitable individual strategiesâ in its study area.
Habitat restoration can be an expensive endeavor. Yet in many, if not most, cases of endangered species in Canada, the main drivers have been industrial and development activities which, while fragmenting and degrading habitat, have generated significant economic gains. . They therefore have the responsibility to bear the costs.
Recovering species at risk is a difficult journey. The first step is to stop the main threats, to silence the knife, so to speak. But from there the company becomes more optimistic, based on the belief that humans have the imagination and the commitment to fix what we have damaged.
As the authors of Journal of Conservation Biology The article on which the Green List is based write: “We believe that the development and implementation of this system will give the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species a positive conservation vision, encouraging optimism” .
“Optimism” is not a word you find every day in scientific journal articles on vulnerable species. Here to find out more.
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from Rachel Plotkin, Boreal Project Manager for the David Suzuki Foundation.