What do you think of when you hear the word “conservation”? Do you approach it in the biological sense, as a need for sustainability of resources to continue to survive? Or perhaps see it through a historical lens, with images of colorfully clad activists of the ‘70s with ideals of peace and love?
The word “conservation” is often perceived as politically loaded. With the current debates surrounding climate change (or lack thereof), conservation has become a word that connotes a lifestyle change for many. This lifestyle change can come in a range of forms. A simple example of this would be the California Plastic Bag Ban, which requires multiple-use bags of thicker material to replace single-use plastic bags that cause pollution. This change can also be more complex, such as mass job loss in the coal industry due to the shift towards more renewable energy. In order to understand the ultimate result of behavioral change that occur from embraced efforts towards conservation, it is important to first understand the term.
When discussing the role of conservation in the professional realm, a common thread of education emerges. Though many environmentalists in the workforce aim to conserve different resources, the need for communication and education surrounding why and how to conserve is present for all. Though what constitutes conservation varies across the workforce, conservation will be defined broadly in this blog post as the “ethical use and protection of valuable natural resources”.
Anthropologists, activists, psychologists, and economists from around the world voice the the importance of teaching values rather than the concept of conservation. By communicating values such as respect, care, and responsibility, many professionals believe that individuals are then able to use their own discretion about how to treat natural resources. This makes sense, as it is not enough to teach behaviors (such as recycling) if overarching concepts such as respect and responsibility for maintaining a healthy environment free of pollution are not discussed as well.
When communicating to children in particular, teaching these core values such as respect for nature are easier to learn than countless facts about resource management, as they have already been modeled by human interaction in their families and schools. If a child first learns the deeper value of respect, he/she is then able to apply that concept across situations, including that regarding natural resource conservation. This reverence of core values is a strong tool when acquiring an understanding and providing education to people who all think of conservation and its effects differently.
If you have been reading these weekly blogs, this concept is very similar to our discussion about Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development in my post “A Green Perspective on Rights and Wrongs”. As ethical views develop, children are able to make decisions out of moral judgement instead of simple obedience. Over time, “don’t take cookies from the jar” transforms from a behavioral command to the concept of stealing, an ethically moral wrong. As children shift into adulthood, this ethical train of thought continues to grow, further defining the difference between behaviors and deeper core values. Though not all professionals working towards conservation are child educators, keeping this developmental trend in mind is useful when communicating new concepts to an audience. Don’t simply teach the “how”, teach the “why”.
Let’s go back to our original question. What do you think of when you hear the word “conservation”? Where did you learn the ideals behind your connotations with the word? Leave your comments in the provided box below. I look forward to reading your thoughts.
In the meantime, below is my photo gallery from the past two weeks. It is not all work here out on the Oregon coast!