On Friday I had the opportunity to attend a conference held at Texas A&M called “Making Global Connections: Exploring Global Issues.” Topics covered ranged from solar power to social sustainability discussing issues which affect everyone across the globe as well as what we, as consumers, can do to improve conditions for those in other countries on issues we don’t even realize we affect. I chose to attend the conference knowing that in conservation you must include global issues into your management efforts. As much as it would be nice to do exactly what you think would be best for saving a species or ecosystem, you must take into consideration the political, economic and social climate of the region to allow for the implementation of any plan. A region in turmoil’s first priority is its people, not the nature which surrounds it.
Notice I said “nature” and not “environment.” During these talks, there was a clear distinction between the two. When I think of “environment,” I think of nature, ecosystems, wildlife, etc. When all of these speakers spoke of environment and environmental sustainability, they were referring to agriculture, soil content, water availability, etc – very human-centric. Although every topic inevitably referred back to nature, not one highlighted it as being an issue. One speaker, when talking on education in Africa, referred to going on safari during her trip as a way to “replenish your soul.” And, while I completely agree having been on safari multiple times, there was no mention of habitat destruction, endangered species, exploitation of land or pro and cons of ecotourism. During the conference, one attendee even asked the question of “untapped resources” in Africa, referring to the vast areas of untouched terrain of the African landscape. The response was surprising to me. There was no reference to leaving any of the wild to remain wild but rather that an improvement would be finding how to utilize those resources. Most of the other attendees probably didn’t even notice this omission or think of it as being relevant but, as an African wildlife conservationist, I kind of hoped it would be addressed.