The Importance of Conservation
Anna - In one sentence, why is conservation important?
Graham - We need clean water, we need clean air, we need seas that are well managed for fisheries, and we need to look after wildlife in all its forms, be it birds, or mammals or whatever.
Anna - In the UK and other developed countries, a lot of conservation seems to be setting up parks and setting up reserves that keep people out. In the developing world, people need access to these resources for their livelihood. Do you think we can have conservation in these areas as well as letting people exploit resources for their own economic benefit?
Graham - Yes, I don't think this is either / or. I don't think we need to use every square inch of any country for direct economic exploitation. If we did, then that would damage the economies of those countries. Developing countries need rainforests. They need them for soil protection and to prevent floods. If they look after them, there is the possibility to take timber out of them in what we call a sustainable way so that there's more timber to take out next year. And a lot of these places can be very attractive to tourists and generate money for the local economy in that way.
Anna - Because there isn't a lot of money in the places we want to conserve, it seems that the richer countries are going to have to pay for it.
Graham - Well first of all we have to convince our governments that it's in their economic interest as well to look after the world's environment, not just in the interest of whichever country we're operating in. The ecosystem works at a global level. If we just take the climate change issue, destroying rainforest on the other side of the earth is going to have a big economic and environmental impact back here, for example, in the UK. So we've got to convince politicians that it makes sense to pay more to look after the environment right around the world. I think part of the problem is that conservationists themselves haven't communicated the brilliance and beauty of what is being lost as well as its economic value. So I think that governments have got to pay more. I suspect that if we asked the average person they would contribute as well.
Anna - What type of thing can people do right here in the UK?
Graham - They can join a good conservation organisation like the RSPB - sorry for the cheap plug! But they probably do need to help conservation organisations to save the countryside. This isn't so we can keep people out. If you take some of the reserves in East Anglia like Minsmere on the Suffolk coast or Titchwell on the Norfolk coast, each of them has over 100 000 visitors each year. They're fabulous places to go for a day out. This isn't keeping people out. This is just managing beautiful parts of the coast so that they can support wildlife and lovely landscapes as well as give people enjoyment.