A group of researchers, from six universities and three continents, are sounding the alarm on a topic not often discussed in the context of preservation – disinformation.
In a recent study published in FacesThe team, including Dr. Adam Ford, Canada’s Head of Research in the Wildlife Restoration Environment, and Dr. Clayton Lamb, a Fellow of Liber Aero, both of whom are residents of Irving K. Barber College of Science, explain how the actions of some scientists and advocacy groups erode the public’s efforts to conserve. On biodiversity.
“It should be the results, not the intentions, of how we see success in preserving the environment,” says Dr. Ford.
“The disinformation about vaccines, climate change and the links between smoking and cancer has made it difficult for science to create better policies for people,” he says. “Weaponizing information to attack other groups hinders our ability to solve problems that affect nearly everyone. We wanted to see if these issues also represent a problem for the people working to conserve biodiversity.
“Conservation is not perfect and things can go wrong. Sometimes people mean goodwill, and damage is caused by accident. Sometimes people’s actions are more evil.”
The study cites multiple examples of badly ending goodwill from all over the world, including the case of Huemul deer in Patagonia National Park, Chile.
“We reviewed one case in which the primary goal of a newly created park was to protect the endangered Huemul deer. The goal was to make the scenery a little better for these deer in hopes of increasing the population,” Dr. Lamb explains. In doing so, they removed domestic livestock from the park, and as a result, the natural predators in the system lost their usual source of food and ate a lot of deer, causing further population decline. It is a biblical case for misplaced preservation. ”
Dr Lamb cites other cases including mass petitions against shark fins in Florida, although the practice was previously banned there; Plant milkweed in an effort to save monarch butterflies, only to eventually harm them; Closer to home, share the misinformation regarding the hunt for grizzly bear in British Columbia.
“When we see county-level policies like banning grizzly fishing, those policies go against the desires of some local communities in some parts of the county – and choosing to promote their views harms relationships and alienates the partners we need on board to protect biodiversity,” says Dr. Ford.
It is suggested that using the “big tent” approach may help combat some of the problems.
“We need to work together on 90 percent of the goals we share together, rather than focus on 10 percent of the issues we disagree on. There are many clear gains for people and wildlife waiting to take action right now,” says Dr. Ford. We need to work together to achieve this. “
Dr. Lamb says doing so is likely to improve cooperation between the parties and increase the use of evidence-based approaches to preservation; Ultimately suppress the spread of disinformation and the occurrence of polarization.
“Although we are seeing some misplaced efforts, we are also seeing real care and good community energy in many of these cases – we just need to find a way to harness that energy in the right direction.”