World news outlets like the BBC and CNN led yesterday with the news of a report that wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since the 70s. Seeing as its general knowledge that wildlife are endangered the reporting I saw didn’t say “what can be done?” it’s spin was “does everyone agree?”
Experts then argued that lumping all species together to get a general number wasn’t good science. And perhaps that’s right. Bad science, poor statistical analysis. But really, I ask you, who cares? Whether it’s good science or bad, whether the authors get tenure track or not, the animals are dying.
The animals are dying and their only chance of survival is if we do something about it. How many can we save? How many are already lost? The academics can keep arguing about that but the rest of us need to come up with a plan, find consensus and get to work.
Some of the first steps are already in place. In Tanzania for example, where I live, there is a vast system of protected areas in place and legislated. Plenty of space for elephant and rhino to roam free. Unfortunately the forces of growth and of development have not dovetailed to make ensure these areas don’t compete with human populations. Without a win-win positive spiral those protected areas just won’t protect. The ideas and programs to put the win-win in place are there, but they’re on the shelf without the resources and will to deploy them.
Let’s not argue with the critic of the homogenized argument. The general wake-up call may not be useful to academe, buts its hugely useful in mobilizing opinion and focusing will. The fact is we’re on the clock. We need these generalizations as a foundation for the work that needs t be done to bring change. It can’t be that every initiative and every new project needs to do this background work itself. This kind of whole sale argument is what you need to develop the retail ideas, the products that go together to make the solution.
So I am in the UAV anti Poaching business. We’re developing a service to provide parks and reserves with Aerial Reconnaissance. Yes I need to think through what a particular park needs. But I also need to have a grip on the big picture. For us it’s the understanding that “The War on Poaching” is really only a battle. The long term protection of wildlife is not a one off. We will need to protect wild life effectively from here on out.
The implication for me is that aerial surveillance of protected areas is here to stay. It’s not going out of style. The prevalence and almost inevitability implied by the article are just what we need to hear. From here on out the protected areas will need to be protected . . . in perpetuity. My job with UAVs is to propose to the consensus a vision that works now and fits into a future defined by articles like the one under discussion.