The Conservation Optimism Summit 2017 in London was filled with positive, unbound energy, incredible diversity in skills, knowledge and experiences among delegates, and forward-thinking and inspiring participatory sessions and presentations.
A collective group such as that which came together at this special event – and since, the creation of the ConservationNOW network – is quite remarkable and certainly a group of people we would like to share more time and conversations with. Informed, creative, and inclusive are three words we would attribute to these days of conference and the grander movement and are akin with those of my self-initiated web-based public communications project, Why Conserve, and its pioneer “child project”, Conservation Scotland.
University education and field training in animal conservation science, professional experience, and observations frequently brought us back to the same strangely simple – yet largely out of the public eye – question of “Why conserve…?”
Then, public conservation messages were characteristically gloomy and sorely distasteful. They lacked the raw fuel of conservation action – personal motivation. Calls to action themselves were largely absent or uniformly donation-oriented, arguably presenting barriers and disconnect between cause, effect, and responsibility.
Thus, also recognising the changing environment in conservation education and communications, Why Conserve now aims to present a participatory online space for individuals to share facts and figures, express perspectives, and celebrate motivations for engaging in conservation activities.
Beyond sharing stories and presenting an accessible digital learning resource, the website serves to help signpost visitors to accessible, high impact actions, combining values and actions in a single online space. Recognising individuals as role models who inspire further action through their stories and contributions, Why Conserve aims to increase public engagement in the problem-solution process towards threat reduction.
Since 2017, Conservation Scotland has been Why Conserve’s region-specific hub for conservation action. It brings organisations and individuals together in a central “one-stop-shop” for sharing free, accessible opportunities for local volunteering, practical training and knowledge exchange. The platform allows organisations to manage their own activities and news for web, social media and email, and for individuals to sign up to receive a weekly events calendar, helping both to achieve conservation outcomes more effectively.
This new relationship with the ConservationNOW community is a healthy prospect for strengthening the early foundations of Why Conserve through learning from and contributing to its activities. We hope to achieve this through sharing means, motives and opportunities in practical conservation action for wildlife and the wider environment locally, wherever that may be.
As education and communications evolve in biodiversity conservation, the promise of a cohesive, sensitive and nurturing network of individuals and organisations has already been evidenced at the summit. ConservationNOW seems like a good move towards the shared vision to build a more effective, more inclusive, and more active future for conservation.