Happy first day of Spring! While our thoughts turn to rebirth and new beginnings of the season, I’m thinking about another kind of new beginning, because conservation as we know it is undergoing some substantial changes.
It’s hokey, I know, but seasonal transitions remind us that change is part of the deal. Conventional wisdom needs to be shaken up and challenged after a while; the systems we so carefully put in place will eventually have to be redesigned, in order to keep them viable and effective. This is the case, for example, with our state parks system: As you’ve probably heard, what worked 100 or even 50 years ago is not necessarily what will work moving forward. So, the Parks Forward Commission (in partnership with the public) will re-envision State Parks for the modern era.
But the potential new beginning of California State Parks is indicative of an even larger-scale evolution. Conservation just doesn’t look or work the way it used to! Ever since the conservation movement began growing in the early 20th century, to most of us it has meant the saving of land and wildlife from human-posed threats. And, while it absolutely does still mean those things, we now know that there’s a lot more we can do — and must do — in order to protect land and the life it supports.
Changing our ways of thinking and doing can be challenging, but it can also be inspiring! And to be good stewards and citizens of the land, we’ll happily embrace the changing face of conservation. So, what does the next generation of conservation look like, and what should we be doing differently? Some things we know, some we’ll still have to figure out.
We’ll continue protecting land, but we’ll have to broaden our focus to include restoring that land as well, so that it can one day return to its former glory. As our body of knowledge grows, we’ll be increasingly able to bring back old-growth forests and other ecosystems, important homes for wildlife and places for unique recreational opportunities.
Critically, we have to bring people back into the natural landscape. At a time when more and more of us live in cities, we must make greater efforts to inspire our children to connect with the outdoors. We must close the distance between our daily lives and the wild places that make us feel alive.
The next generation of conservation is upon us, and it’s up to us to decide what the future will look like. Let’s start the conversation: What else can we do? What should we do differently? I’d love to hear your ideas! Please share your thoughts below.
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