Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Conservation Zeitgeist

'As Michael Gove famously pointed out during the referendum campaign ''people in this country have had enough of experts". This was tellingly taken up by fellow Brexiteer MP Gisela Stuart who proclaimed that "There is only one expert that matters, and that's you, the voter". It appears that politicians, all too ready to pick up on the current zeitgeist, are aping the language of social media, where pithy opinion seems to be the main form of communication'Andrew Bason, Editor, British Wildlife Volume 28: 1 October 2016

Indeed! Human communication is now mainly through straplines, memes, gifs and images. Conservation organisations continuously talk about public engagement while seemingly ignoring the very large popular twitter accounts and facebook pages which are pro-nature and conservation and are the mass beacons to the people. Beacons which are not being utilised by the conservation NGOs. Groups that spring to mind include UNILADBORED PANDAI F#ING LOVE BIODIVERSITY and popular radical activist groups that include ANONYMOUS and the softer A Twitter account with a mass following that springs to mind is Team4Nature.

Of course there is a conflict of interest here between the conservation NGOs attracting public engagement in terms of new members to their organisations compared to real public engagement which is the organic mass mobilisation of ideas.

These public engagement social networks are newly evolved beasts. UNILAD- a lad's-mag type social networking site that has a massive cult like following, BORED PANDA- a youthful arts/humanities social network group. These are the power houses to the public and if conservation organisations or alliances such as the State of Nature Report Alliance want to communicate facts from experts to the public, those facts will need to be giffed and memed and then pasted through similar mass mobilisation platforms.

Conservation organisations working with working class lad groups, activists, young and cool demographically diverse communities??? Of course not!!. There is a middle class, middle aged, mainly white conservation elite which do not want public engagement at all. They want to maintain the status quo of conservation being owned by the NGOs rather than owned by the people and the popular movements. Their largely old, white and middle class paying members would be horrified by connecting to anything with the word LAD in it . The NGOs need the grey pound-this maintains funding to support staff and board members. It does not however engage the public at large, especially young or ethnically diverse groups. For the NGOs it mainly about the grey pound- an unsustainable funding stream considering they are literally all on their way out. The capitalists motives of this are so clear e.g. CEOs of conservation organisations are increasingly ex-corporate people e.g. the new CEO of the London Wildlife Trust is from IBM- a move which is clearly capital driven and nothing to do with mass mobilisation and public engagement.

When experts and facts are locked within this 'mafia' and are not connecting to the mass mobilisation apparatus it becomes apparent that one of the main causes of the conservation crisis is ineffective communication and lack of  instruction from the knowledge centres to the public. There is no or little connection between the brain and the cells.

The preservation of nature is the will of the people but that will is not being expressed.

The current Zeitgeist is that the traditional conservation NGOs are running out of funding, are forming alliances because they are struggling, trying desperately to preserve themselves and are spreading fear to make people believe that the establishment is the solution- when it is so clearly the problem.

This needs to shift to a message of hope, of revolution, of mass mobilisation and connection. This needs to shift from self preservation of the conservation community to self sacrifice and the handing over of power to the masses and new era of popular and mass involvement conservation- one way or another.


Pooran Desai said...

I agree with what you say apart from your description 'middle class, middle aged, mainly white conservation elite'. It is not an elite. It is a simply a demographic - which is becoming less influential as we outgrow what is basically a Victorian world view.

Peter Alfrey said...

I agree. Its just a perception of an elite. They have very limited real impact.