(CI Samoa secured a partnership with local daily award winning newspaper, the Samoa Observer, where we have been given a weekly column to highlight Environmental Conservation Work. Here's a look at the first article published)
Conservation International Samoa - Program Director, Schannel Fanene Van Dijken, collecting marine data
“Conservation is the application of common sense to the common problem for the common good” that is according to American politician and forester, the late Gifford Pinchot.
When people hear the word “conservation”, the common reaction is to run and hide due to the misconception that the term means to ban something or to prohibit certain activities.
Take for example the average fisherman fearing that conservationists will take away their favourite fishing spots, or not let hunters hunt.
Before we go any further, let us first quash the mentality that “conservationists do not care about people, they only care about nature and animals”. That’s far from the truth, it’s quite the opposite really – conservation wants people to thrive, and people need nature to thrive... not the other way around.
“Conservation is quite simple, it’s about being sustainable,” Conservation International Samoa - Program Director, Schannel Fanene Van Dijken, explained.
“It’s about helping manage people. Nature is fine on its own, its people that need managing, and conservation is about arming people with the right knowledge and ‘know how’ in order to better manage their resources that they rely on.
“It’s about putting plans and policy in place that looks at sustainable use of our resources. It’s not about locking away nature or resources, it’s about making sure we can live in balance with nature, so that it can continue to provide the many benefits for humans.”
Another way to look at this is that our natural resources (marine life, terrestrial life, water, air etc.) CAN be infinite, but not at the current rates we are exploiting them.
The fact remains that nature is struggling to grow and provide for us because we want to take too much, and this exploitation of resources damages nature/environment/habitats in the process.
Furthermore, this puts at risk all the services the environment freely provides us - such as food/crops, clean water, shelter, storm protection, building resources, commodity resources our economy needs and so on. Nature is the base of everything. And when 90% of Samoa is customary land with an abundance of nature to manage and derive benefits from, we really should care – it’s the common resources for the common good.
“Conservation is all about us,” Mr. Van Dijken added.
“It’s about people now, and in the future, having access to a healthy environment and all the perks it provides. It’s about fighting and managing to reduce the things that threaten a healthy environment, such as managing pollution and the climate we are changing through all the carbon and fossil fuels we are burning.”
So when we speak about conservation, it’s not solely for the sake of nature and animals. It’s so we and our children don’t suffer. So we can live peaceful with a healthy surrounding and not have to absorb our own pollution back into our bodies. In sum, conservationists care about nature, animals and people... fascinating right?
Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, another misconception people have is “conservation sounds like a lot of work and somewhat complicated”.
That’s true in a sense; conservation is complicated, as we are always dealing with many different people and stakeholders that have many different ideas and views.
But what if you were told that conservation doesn’t necessarily mean you have to tie yourself to a tree or fight poachers somewhere overseas? What if you were told that conservation is as simple as minor changes to your everyday activities?
It’s as simple as discussions and talanoa with your family.
Small acts such as turning off the lights or faucet when they aren’t needed - to save water and power; harvesting only the fish and shellfish you need, leaving the small ones to grow and reproduce, and leaving some really big ones to keep producing; taking a shopping bag to the store to avoid the use of plastic bags - which will only end up in landfills or in our ocean; picking up rubbish you come across - rather than just stepping over it; educating yourself on your natural resources around your community; and so on.
These acts and actions may sound small and simple, and they are, but all combined - these help make a considerably big impact at the national, regional and global scale. And in the future, your grand-kids, great grand-kids and so on will see it as a huge gesture of your love for them as you are leaving the earth as you found it.
We have to remember that we are only the guardians of this planet for the next generation. We do not want them inheriting our waste and bad behaviors. Who would ever want to hand their beloved island and planet to their kids in a worse condition than what they inherited.
We are merely custodians and guardians and need to think more in these ways, think more as a conservationist.