“Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.” ~E.O.Wilson
I agree with the sentiment, and yet believe that I would likely burn the painting if I was hungry enough. Conservation has to offer solutions that take into account the reality of poverty while also combating the reality of over-consumption and unsustainable, unethical supply chains.
Conservation is often viewed as punitive, but it lends itself to adding value. I would argue that when you broaden the time frame and enlarge the scale, it is inherently additive to humans. For example, it will certainly benefit all humans writ large to have functioning, large-scale rainforests in the tropics. Beauty and ideals aside, there is a quantifiable benefit of a rainforest in terms of carbon storage, erosion control, and many other ecosystem services.
The movie Racing Extinction explores ways to make conservation lift communities up, and the Cheetah Conservation Fund engages in community-based conservation practices that improve both human life and wildlife.
Today I was having a conversation with a professional who works in the environmental fields. When I explained my interest in the work, I noted that when I pay attention to the issues, I am terrified.
Her reply: You should be terrified.
Yet I also find many reasons for hope when I pay attention and when I engage.
In the words of Dr. Stuart Pimm (quoted in the above Racing Extinction link), “…the variety of life on Earth is beautiful. And we can actually do something about saving it.”
In the process, we would save ourselves.