What does it mean to be prejudiced? Prejudice is often imagined as being for or against something in an unfair way. Webster’s Dictionary says it’s “an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.”
We are living in an expanding world on a finite planet. There are more and more of us. And what we do can effect many others. Our activities are changing the global commons – air, water and land. We have triggered the 6th extinction. In response, famed American ecologist Dr. E.O. Wilson called for setting aside half of the planet for biodiversity conservation. This message resonates with many conservationists where the cultural norm has been to set aside lands as forests, parks and refuges.
Before we rush to implement this recommendation it’s important to think things through. What’s the root cause of the 6th extinction? Is setting aside large tracts of land and minimizing people’s actions within those areas a quick fix with unintended consequences? What might affected people think of such ideas?
As I have written before, affluent people represent approximately 20% of the population but consume about 80% of global resources. The ecological footprint of a typical American conservationist dwarfs the impacts of many people that would be affected by Wilson’s idea.
And this is where prejudice comes in. While Wilson’s idea seems like the right thing to do, what might a poor person in Pakistan think of it? Would she agree? What might her impression of conservationists be afterwards.
Trishant Simlai and Raza Kazmi published an essay on November 13, 2017 a conservationist concerned about biodiversity might read. They share unintended consequences that parks are having on ethnic minorities in India.
Conservation stories come into my inbox everyday from around the world. Some remind me of two statements I heard recently at a national gathering of conservationists. One person opined that conservation isn’t going to get done on an empty stomach. In contrast another stated that conservationists can’t solve world hunger.
What do we do with these conflictual opinions? While affluent conservationists aren’t solely responsible for such problems, do we own a piece of the mess? Perhaps such issues should be discussed and prejudices challenged if the work of conservation is to remain relevant.