How to keep conservation policies from backfiring in a globally connected world | 2/20/2019 | Staff
AavyAavy (Posted by) Level 4
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For many years environmentalists have urged the public to "think globally, act locally" – meaning, consider the health of the planet, then take action in your own community.

But this approach can have unintended consequences. In a recent study, I worked with colleagues from academia, government and the nonprofit world to gather examples of fishery, forestry, agriculture and biofuel policies that appeared successful locally, but on closer inspection actually created environmental problems elsewhere, or in some cases made them worse.

Example - Field - Fisheries - Ecology - Management

For example, in my field of fisheries ecology and management, one strategy for managing the problem of bycatch – when fishermen accidentally catch non-target species, such as sharks, sea turtles and dolphins – is to reduce local catch limits. But when the United States curtailed Pacific swordfish catch between April 2001 and March 2004 to protect sea turtles, U.S. wholesalers imported more swordfish from other countries' fleets operating in the Western and Central Pacific.

These fleets subsequently caught more swordfish to meet continued U.S. market demand. In the process, the number of sea turtles unintentionally hooked by fishermen increased by nearly 3,000 compared to before the closure.

Colleagues - Pattern - Leakage - Slippage - Ways

My colleagues and I see this pattern, which scholars often call leakage or slippage, as vast and growing. To help address it, we identified ways to avoid taking actions that just displace environmental harms from one place to another rather than reducing them.

Once environmental problems are addressed locally, people often assume that they have been solved. But if demand for whatever they are trying to conserve – land, wildlife, energy resources – stays high, people will obtain them from other sources. In the process, they cause environmental damage in locations or economic sectors that are less strictly regulated.

Consumers - Materials - Wood - Way - Demand

Persuading consumers to reuse excess materials, such as reclaimed wood, is one way to reduce demand for virgin materials.

These scenarios...
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