Accepted paper:

Thinking beyond "the human" in conservation education, biodiversity facilitation, and wildlife rehabilitation

Author:

Paul Mason (Taronga Conservation Society Australia)

Paper short abstract:

Conservationists see human behaviour as both driver and solution to planetary crises. Individualist and collectivist approaches to socio-environmental responsibility differ in their scope to address the human obstacle to ecological biodiversity. Are more-than-human engagements lacking?

Paper long abstract:

Individualist approaches to environmental education—shutting off taps while brushing one's teeth, turning off lights not in use, or reusing coffee keepcups—are necessary but limited and ignore the politics of issues such as consumption, food insecurity, and resource depletion. Responsibilising individuals sets aside collective, systemic change and leaves governments and corporations to perpetuate socio-environmental problematic activities unhindered by the critique of an engaged, questioning, and politicised citizenry. Responsibilising individuals, however, does set new codes and standards for the presentational self. With a new set of moral engagements, consumers have a pretext for purchasing products that are good for the environment and enhance self-image. For example, bracelets made from ocean waste, vegan wares, and ethical and sustainable designer brands. In other words, activism and advocacy can become a new excuse for conspicuous consumption. Where does that leave "more-than-human" engagements? More worryingly, given that 70% of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2050, will "more-than-human" engagements fall by the wayside altogether? In the absence of contact with rural and natural habitats, future generations will grow up without an essential understanding of multispecies reciprocity. How do we move the problem currently being ascribed to individuals and their problematic behaviour to a, more critical and therefore useful, socio-political understanding of forces that engages in sustainable patterns of multispecies reciprocity that sees environmental education not only as education in, about and for the environment, but also with the environment?

panel P20
Life and death, sacred and secular: thinking with and beyond species in a more-than-human world