Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Conservation as disequilibrium

After attending a talk by Alan Rabinowitz on how the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve, the largest tiger reserve in the world, was set up, one thing he said sticks in my mind. Conservation is a 'dynamic disequilibrium', and the work of tending to it will never come to an end.

Too many people in conservation or interested in the environment think that there will be a stage when we can finish the job and take our hands off and see everything run smoothly, but 'if we don't think the same way about crime and police, why do we think this way about conservation?'

Perhaps conservationists are predisposed to think this way because the idea of conservation is to restore environments and landscapes to a supposed original or pristine state. Whether or not there ever was an original state that would have lasted forever if undisturbed is debatable.

But whatever the case, this does highlight how much work is needed to manage landscapes and the people who have to live in them. The old model of simply setting land aside to lock animals in and peoples out is fundamentally flawed.

1 comment:

art.hropod said...

This post struck a chord with me when you mentioned many conservationists' tendency to think that "conservation is to restore environments and landscapes to a supposed original or pristine state."

The aim to return landscape to its "natural state" is a very romantic notion, but also a very un-biological one. The balance of nature is a dynamic balance - ecosystems are alway changing, alway adjusting to new conditions. That has been going on long before we humans appeared - in fact, that's how we appeared in the first place - and it will go on long after we have disappeared again.

The very term "Conservation" implies that we want to conserve a particular state, which would be quite an unnatural situation. As you suggest, "Management" is a more appropriate term, and it also conveys the need for ongoing effort much better.