More Musings from Sydney

We’re on day 5 of 8, and there’s two things that stand out to me today as I reflect about WPC so far.

One is the focus on youth, which I mentioned before in a previous blog.  That topic still seems to have the edge over a multitude of topics here as far as what seems to have some grounding and traction day to day.  Almost 50% of the world’s population is below the age of 35, so it’s all making sense that many of us see that as an important conservation issue.  A few years ago in remote northern Kenya I had a project in which we asked community leaders to identify the conservation priorities of the region, a place in which rangeland is in poor condition for a pastoral-based community, clean water is hard to come by, trees provide the primary source of fuel and heat….and one of the top findings was youth and how to empower them to help sustain and improve the landscape there.  So, what I’m hearing here at the most global of discussions is consistent with what I heard a few years ago in the remoteness of northern Kenya by a group of about 20 Samburu.

Second, there’s a lot of buzz and talk about health and parks, a “healthy parks, healthy people” agenda. This runs the gamut from people needing wild places for spiritual health and renewal, to protected areas conserving forests that keep our air clean, and so on.  There’s aA lot of talk about this, and a lot of thoughts, theories, approaches and disagreements about how to quantify such benefits.  I can’t get my head around how you begin to value some of this stuff, like spiritual benefits. Some use approaches in which visitors are asked how much they would have paid for the experience they just had (this approach was used to measure value of spiritual benefits to visitors who reported spiritual renewal as a benefit of their experience), to calculating the costs of respiratory disease in an area (ER visits, pharmaceuticals for asthmas, etc.) to estimate how much value trees provide in air quality improvement, etc. I’m over-simplifying the examples, but hopefully you get the point.  Where my mind can’t go is this: we don’t pay for spiritual benefits (to go with that example for that moment) and asking me how much I WOULD pay, well, how do I know? I’ve never had to buy spiritual benefits, and the question is hypothetical so who knows if my monetary estimate is accurate,  and so on. I usually settle with a thought that some of this stuff just isn’t monetarily quantifiable.  But there’s where my colleague Kelly Jones comes in; she studies this stuff and maybe she can figure it out J

Australians, as an entire population, appear to have settled on aerosols for meetings their deoderant needs. I cannot find a roll-on deoderant around here to save my life.

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