Book Insights - "The Conservation Revolution"
The current state of conservation and promising alternativesNovember 20th, 2021
Book: The Conservation Revolution: Radical Ideas for Saving Nature Beyond the Anthropocene by Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher
Why "The Conservation Revolution"
Conservation is the current rotating-learning topic I’ve been focusing on the last couple of months and an area I hope to eventually transition to work in.
Despite growing up in a family of conservationists, I don’t feel like I know the current state of the field. I chose this book to get an overview of the current state of conservation, the big debates and the dominant philosophies.
I feel like this book was a good starting point to get an overview of the current fields of thought as well as new ideas being put forth as radical alternatives to make considerable progress in conservation.
You've likely heard this term, if not, it refers to an unofficial geologic time (now) where human activity has become the dominant influence on the planet and ecosystems.
However, Büscher and Fletcher argue that Anthropocene isn't an accurate term as the negative influences on the environment aren't distributed equally between people groups.
Instead they propose using the term 'Capitolcene' to highlight that the mass depletion of resources and negative impacts to the environment overwhelmingly come from capitalist industry and post-capitalistic / post-industrial nations / development.
The State of Conservation Theory
The authors discuss the three major streams of conservation philosophy with their own proposed alternative.
All four of these philosophies can be plotted on a 2 x 2 quadrant, depending on how the theory interprets its relation to capitalism and whether or not it adheres to a nature/culture dichotomy.
As the name implies, this is the current mainstream approach and a continuation of business as usual.
Unfortunately, we can see from the current state of conservation efforts, climate change, unprecedented human-caused deforestation, and biodiversity decline continue that business as usual isn't going to cut it.
'New conservation' pushes back against the protected areas of Mainstream Conservation and the separation of humans from nature by fully embracing the 'Anthropocene'.
Practictioners of New Conservation theory advocate for a full integration of conservation into capitalistic economic systems believing it is required for conservation legitimacy.
Büscher and Fletcher agree with the desire to remove the nature / culture dichotomy by bringing nature into urban areas and people into direct contact with nature. They also advocate for the need to address poverty in conjunction with convservation efforts.
However, what the authors see as an impossible aspect of New Conservation is the continued connection of conservation with capitalism - arguing that conservation is inherently incompatible with capitialism, since capitalism perpetuates the problem that conservation is trying to solve.
'Neoprotectionism' comes as a direct pushback to New Conservation and calls for more protected areas and wilderness preservation. Some more radical forms of the movement even arguing for a Half Earth - preserving half of the earth and seas as protected areas from humans and especially capitalist exploitation.
Büscher and Fletcher agree with the separation of capitalism and conservation but disagree with the feasability of succeeding with a Half Earth goal and with the extent of separation of people from nature.
However, Neoprotectionism also doesn't address the affects of capitalistic development outside of protected areas, as continued exponential development outside of protected areas will continue affects the world as a whole - i.e. climate change.
Enter Convivial Conservation
'Convivial Conservation' is the theory put forth by the authors in the effort to view conservation wholistically through the lense of political ecology.
The authors argue that Convivial Conservation takes the positive aspects of New Conservation and Neoprotectionism and moves toward the dissipation of the nature / culture divide and a separation of conservation and capitalism.
There are two core aspects to Convivial Conservation.
First, encourage nature to flourish freely and let people be part of it. Let nature enter into our human spaces - let our living spaces become wilder.
Second, transform the economy by balancing human needs with the rest of nature. This will inevitably lead toward a longterm economic degrowth since infinite growth that consumes natural resources and biodiversity conservation can not coexist.
This requires changes in three primary domains:
Landscapes - rethinking landuse so that humans and animals can flourish side by side.
Finance - how conservation efforts are financed (i.e. conservation basic income that could lead to development through care of the environment versus resource competition).
Democracy - those with the largest development footprints will need to change their lives most even if they live far from conservation spaces.
Related Topics / Further Research
The book aims to open the conversation around conservation, finding alternatives to Mainstream Conservation, new Conservation, and Neoprotectionism, and what an alternative to these systems would need to include or exclude.
Although "The Conservation Revolution" doesn’t provide specific solutions using Convivial Conservation, the authors provide an overview of movements, theories, and ongoing ideas of what they believe is in the right direction - which I'll list below:
Cooperative property / coop farming
Grass roots movements
Renewable development / renewable energy
Vegetarianism / veganism
C02 caps + resource caps
Resource extraction limits
Better social security / social nets
Work sharing (reduced hours)
Universal basic income + income caps
Consumption taxes and resource taxes
Commercial and commerce free zones
I think this book was a great intro into the current state of conservation and a useful way to learn about the current fields of thought including some of their benefits and downsides.
The numerous sources cited in the book create a jumping off point for further study in conservation movements and highlight exciting, new ideas in the realm of political ecology.
If you're picking up this book for a step by step plan on implementing Convivial Conservation, I've got bad news for you, the book doesn't list it out. Besides the further study topics listed above, there isn't much in the way of concrete plans.
But I don't see this as a problem with the book.
The authors are putting forth radical ideas with the hope of completely shifting the paradigm of conservation and inviting others to pick up the baton and move forward with the bleeding edge movement.
If you're interested in learning more about alternative conservation theories, I highly recommend picking up a copy of "The Conservation Revolution" and reading more about Convivial Conservation on their website.