Future of environmental conservation: not all doom and gloom


Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” helped launch the environmental movement, a scientist told a BYU audience Tuesday.

Peter Kareiva, chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy, gave an address explaining the progression of environmentalism since the “golden decade” from 1965 to 1975.

He said legislation such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act can be traced back to Carson’s book, published in 1962.

“This was one woman who changed the world,” Kareiva said. “When she published ‘Silent Spring,’ there was very little environmental awareness, we didn’t have the endangered species list, the Water Quality Act, any of that.”

Kareiva said things have changed since the book’s publication.

“Now, if you pause and move 50 years forward and think about where we are now, I think if you honestly ask yourself and read newspapers, the environmental conservation movement is weaker than its been in 40 years,” Kareiva said.

Kareiva outlined and critiqued a few examples of the environmental conservation movement. He used the example of the well-known Henry David Thoreau and his work.

“His mother came and did his laundry every weekend,” Kareiva said. “Even I could be a mountain man too if my mother did my laundry for me.”

Kareiva said the environment is often described as “fragile” but is actually very resilient

“We can damage nature, and we have to find out when we damage it so much that it breaks,” Kareiva said. “But, it’s not some delicate, fragile flower. It can be quite resilient.”

He said that despite nature’s resiliency, environmental conservation often takes on a doom and gloom perspective.

“If Martin Luther King was an environmentalist, he would not have given an I have a dream speech, he’d have given an I have a nightmare speech,” Kareiva said.

Kareiva said the future of conservation does not need to be so full of doom and gloom, but instead has potential.

“The future is this, these are the words, ‘restore’, ‘reconnect’, ‘people’, ‘communities’, ‘growth opportunities’, ‘technology for nature’, ‘green business’,” Kareiva said. “That’s the future for conservation that will work.”

Kareiva said no matter what humans do, they will still leave a mark on the world. But, this is not something to be depressed by.

“I know it seems a little depressing to some that no matter where you go in the world, you can find the footprint of humans,” Kareiva said. “That might be depressing, but get over it. There’s still a lot of beauty in nature.”

Kareiva said that with 90 percent of Americans living in cities, people need to make an effort to appreciate nature in their cities.

“Let’s treasure and embrace nature in our cities,” he said. “It’s not just nature out there in Yellowstone, it’s nature in the cities.”


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