Conservation, more than just behavior

“What do you think of when you hear the word ‘conservation’?”

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.

“Don’t simply teach the ‘how’, teach the ‘why’.”

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!

Joined in on the sea star wasting surveys with ODFW and the Nature Conservancy last week!

Healthy sea star in the intertidal at Cape Perpetua.

Tamolitch Blue Pool was an incredible sight this past weekend on the OSG camping trip.

This pool was 38 degrees and we all jumped in! Oregon Sea Grant camping trip 2017.

No shortage of water here in Oregon!

Family visit this weekend. Toured lighthouses here in Newport.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Newport, OR.

In search of great coastal views? Visit this stone lookout point at Cape Perpetua, one of five marine reserves on the Oregon coast!

Nothing like a little Merlot and a beautiful sunset to end a perfect weekend.

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About Sarah Ann Coffin

Sarah is an undergraduate student at California State University, Monterey Bay. In fall 2017, she will graduate with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Statistics. After graduation, Sarah plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Social Psychology to further study how psychological concepts can be applied to encourage environmental care. By understanding what encourages individual environmental concern, Sarah hopes to provide communities with effective methods to promote daily environmentally friendly behaviors and overall improved environmental care. After gaining experience in the field, Sarah looks forward to returning to the university system as a professor in psychology.

5 thoughts on “Conservation, more than just behavior

  1. To me, conservation is the act of preserving, improving and protecting (natural or human) resources with intent to improve the quality of life for future generations.

    With a science based perception of most topics, conservation certainly falls into the category of topics I consider and ponder from a scientific aspect. Conservation ensures a stable environment as well as an efficient way of using resources available while being able to consistently replenish and protect them.

    Awesome blog, by the way.

  2. Your blogs are always insightful and thought provoking and I thoroughly enjoy reading them. I’ve never thought about how I define conservation, but in the most simplest terms I would say that it’s protecting nature from human influence. With that being said, I don’t think humans would have that drive to protect nature if they weren’t exposed to it early on and taught the value of nature as you were stating in your post. Therefore, while the best way to protect nature from humans might seem like keeping humans out of natural areas, of course we know that humans must be given access to these areas in order to understand and appreciate them, and therefore want to protect them. Quite a tricky subject! I so look forward to when you move on to graduate school so I can read your dissertation, I’m sure that it will be fascinating.

  3. I always jump to the “save” aspect of conservation, and not necessarily the “conservative” derivative of it, although they are related concepts (at least etymologically). So I try to remind myself that those ideas are linked – conservation and conservative – when “conservation” topics arise in mixed political groups.
    Have you sent a link to this blog post out? I bet they’d love to read your excellent summary and thoughts.

  4. My frist thought when I hear Conservation is the old seasonal farming techniques. Where famers would rotate the farm land as to not drain the soil of all the nutrients. The crop rotation ensured the farmers of a good crop yeld well taking care of the land.

  5. You make a good point in that we need to access natural areas in order to connect/protect them. Finding the balance in anything (especially conservation) seems to be an ever-evolving mission. I can’t wait to hear where your research takes you in grad school; you are going to do amazing things. I hope you keep in touch! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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