Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Streetlight Effect!

The streetlight effect: The streetlight effect is our human tendency to look for answers where it’s easy to look rather than where the actual information is. For instance, counting the lines of code produced is easy but doesn’t tell us anything about the quality of the application, the functionality it provides or even the effectiveness. Click for detail. Source.

My pal Randy is hallucinating.
I would like a singularity of voice by the ocean conservation movement. 
As a communicator, that is what you wish for. Not dozens of groups competing against each other with their various brands. Just one, singular, simple, powerful voice, created by all the major NGOs, coming together to convey the upsetting truth, that the world’s oceans have lost X percentage of their total wildlife biomass, and if things don’t change, by 2030 it will be down to Y. 

And then I’d like for EVERY group to get behind that singular message, dedicating themselves to stopping the trend in all their various ways. Instead of waging all their, “Yay, we’re winning, give us more money” campaigns.
Yeah, right.
Simply not gonna happen.

Granted, there has been progress.
The IUCN, also owing to its makeup whereby it's an NGO of NGOs has always been a great unifier. It has also been refreshing to note that despite of the occasional sniping, the Elasmobranch conservationists have presented a largely unified front at this year's CITES CoP. And even on an individual basis, people like DaMary shine by always striving to rally all the relevant players around a common goal, like she and Shawn have successfully done in the Manta Ray of Hope initiative.

But of course that remains the exception.
The divisive competition for ever scarcer donor funds continues unabated and in a world where any three chicks with a Facebook page can mount the next global conservation initiative, the fragmentation and senseless duplication of efforts has become bigger and not smaller - and I'm not even talking about the distraction by the whacks, bullshitters and shameless self promoters, foremost of which the great hydra of personality cult and pseudo-conservation whose unparalleled expertise in crowd funding continues to syphon away funds that are desperately needed elsewhere!
AND, we continue to focus on the effects and not the ultimate causes, i.e. population growth and more importantly, the growth of individual ecological footprints!
The consequences are devastating - read this post.

Forget reform from within.
It would inevitably lead to job losses - and not only are the professional conservationists gonna cling to their precious seats and oppose any such move, but those who will get shafted will moreover create their own NGOs and further add to the grudge, fragmentation and divisiveness!
Examples? :)

But the major donors could become the catalysts for change.
People like e.g. the folks at Ocean 5 are rooted in the real world and one would hope that they would not be suckered into thinking that professional conservation  is any different, and that it should not be measured by the very same metrics that rule good old fashioned business ventures: stuff like ROI, accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, market share and penetration, etc - and failing that, restructuring all the way to mergers, redundancies and ultimately, closures!

And the likelihood of that happening?
Quite possibly more than 50%, especially in the midst of this persistent recession - but having said that, both philantropy and marketing which are the major sources of such funding are more often driven by passion and emotion than by rational thinking, so who knows.
But as always, we shall see!

And our hope in the face of the ugly truth?
It, and and the passion that fuels us are all we really got.
Randy's ever shifting baselines (watch this slide show!) will never be reestablished as extinction continues to erode biodiversity - but they remind us of never getting cocky, and that the mission is really never accomplished. If we persevere and are successful and above all, very very lucky, we will eventually end up with a new wilderness, a managed, less biodiverse space that will be but a shadow of its glorious past - and guess what, owing to the shifting baselines effect, the next generations won't even notice!

That's the best case scenario.
Granted, it's not much to look forward to - but at least that, I am convinced, we can achieve.

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