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Documenting the Conservation Story, Part 2

September 1, 2014
Photo courtesy of Heena Metha

Photo credit: Heena Metha

As I mentioned earlier, the internship program for my school requires we do an Informational Interview with our supervisor. I wanted to share the interview here for other people who are interested in entrepreneurial conservation. The rest of the information from the interview will soon be in the updated About section of the site.

Informational Interview with Crist Inman, Executive Director of RAXA Collective

1. How does the partnership between environment and business work in the sustainable tourism industry?

The idea behind it is to give more value to nature in its raw state than using it in an extractive way. For example, you can cut down a tree only once, but you can monetize it by having people pay for a hike over and over again. It is a partnership between environment and business that engages people in conservation. Philanthropic conservation such as writing a check to WWF or The Nature Conservancy is good, but there is still a deficit in conservation. Public sector work plays an important role, but we are going to need more than philanthropy and public sector work as the world still loses more wilderness than it protects. The intangibles of culture loss are harder to detect and comprehend but the world is losing that too. This is a business model that allows people to engage in conservation more than just writing a check. This allows people to participate and experience nature and culture in a way that is good for business.

2. What is entrepreneurial conservation?

Usually these two words don’t get used in the same sentence. Together though, these words build something more valuable and effective than either could on their own. The premise underlying entrepreneurial conservation is that there are good economic reasons to preserve natural and cultural heritage. And when such good reasons present themselves, opportunity and need go hand in hand. Essentially, it is professionals developing and/or managing a business whose profits are invested in the conservation of natural and/or cultural patrimony. Read more…

Conservation, Passenger Pigeons, History Of Extinction

September 1, 2014
Gérard DuBois

Gérard DuBois

Our favorite doomsday journalist (we mean that as the highest compliment) posted over the weekend an unamusing memo to remind us that this is an important centenary anniversary. It ups the ante on our commitment to the community of birdwatchers, casual and serious alike, who support important conservation of wildlife habitat all over the world.

It is not amusing to be reminded about various tragic commons, especially ones for which collective action would seem to have been achievable. We link to these stories in the hope that doomsday outcomes will become less likely if we remind ourselves often enough.

Yesterday the ever-better New York Times, newspaper of record that pays more and better attention to environmental issues than most other publications, saw fit to print this piece by the Executive Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, for which we give our thanks and share with you in whole due to its value as a public service:

ITHACA, N.Y. — THE passenger pigeon is among the most famous of American birds, but not because of its beauty, or its 60-mile-an-hour flight speed. Nor is it a cherished symbol of our great country. No, we remember the passenger pigeon because of the largest-scale human-caused extinction in history.

Read more…

Bird of the Day: Malabar Pied Hornbill (Dandeli, Karnataka)

August 31, 2014

Malabar Pied Hornbill by Brinda Suresh - RAXA Collective

Thank You, Oxfam International

August 31, 2014
Photo courtesy of behindthebrands.org

Photo courtesy of behindthebrands.org

The Oxfam International campaign Behind the Brands aims to address how little is known about supply chains of the top 10 largest food and beverage companies. Listening to the NPR Salt Chat provides a good explanation about how pushing for transparency from these big companies is a catalyst for on-the-ground change. The campaign has only been around for a year and a half and they’ve already seen great progress in terms of land rights for local community, government intervention, and women’s rights.

It’s not always easy to connect the dots between the food we consume and the people who grow it, or the impact of growing and processing that food on the health of our planet.

But a campaign called Behind the Brands, led by Oxfam International, an advocacy organization dedicated to fighting poverty, is trying to make the inner workings of the 10 biggest food companies in the world more visible…

We sat down to talk with Chris Jochnick, one of the architects of this campaign and Oxfam America’s director of private sector development. We touched on how social media is giving activists more power, why big food companies respond to pressure, and whether corporate executives are his friends or his enemies.

We also wanted to know: Will the promises that these companies make really translate into concrete changes on, say, cocoa farms in West Africa?

Read more…

Robo-bees

August 31, 2014
PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN MA AND PAKPONG CHIRARATTANANON

PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN MA AND PAKPONG CHIRARATTANANON

At RAXA Collective we’re often writing about the birds and the bees within the context of ornothological and entomological biodiversity, as well as the agricultural health of the planet. The impact of CCD, or colony collapse disorder, is significant enough that the Obama administration has challenged scientists with the same force of urgency as Kennedy’s 1962 appeal for a moon landing before the decade was over.

Food attorney and National Geographic contributor Mary Beth Albright writes:

To stay optimistic on this planet I have to believe that most agree that saving honeybees is vastly preferable to replacing them but an interesting alternative is coming out of Harvard. On its website a research team led by engineering professor and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Robert Wood states “we do not see robotic pollination as a wise or viable long-term solution to Colony Collapse Disorder. If robots were used for pollination—and we are at least 20 years away from that possibility—it would only be as a stop-gap measure….”

Read more…

Bird of the Day: Rufous-tailed Hummingbird – female (Leicester, Massachusetts)

August 30, 2014
Photo credit: Nancy Buron

Photo credit: Nancy Buron

Why We Walk

August 30, 2014
Photo Courtesy of digitaldeconstruction.com

Photo Courtesy of digitaldeconstruction.com

I have been endlessly fascinated by walking. I asked myself Why We Walk while I walked 400 km on the Camino. A recent article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker has brought me to this question again in a new context. The article talks about what it means to be a pedestrian in the modern world and how the role of walking has changed as it’s become less necessary. The sad thing about walking for pleasure instead of necessity means that it occurs less. Many of us spend our lives in the sitting position: sitting in cars to then go sit at work and then sitting at home after a long day of sitting. I’m generalizing here as I call myself out on my sedentary life. Our bodies are made to walk, so I must ask myself, Why Don’t We Walk?

Roads are not enjoyable to walk in an increasingly auto dependent world. When living in a residential area there isn’t much activity to make walking around something that invites ‘randomness’. Adam Gopnik writes in the New Yorker about Why We Walk. He says,”We start walking outdoors to randomize our experience of the city, and then life comes in to randomize us.” The sidewalks are public space. In the suburbs we have a lot of private space and little public space. I have to wonder how it could affect our psyche to not brush up against the world. I wonder what we take away when we lose the opportunity to have chance interactions in indeterminate public spaces.  I wonder how creative we could be as a culture if the majority of our interactions with strangers didn’t occur over money exchanges. Adam Gopnik talks about the vague excitement and pure chance of walking in New York City.

You could walk anywhere. Saturday all day, Sunday all day, I’d tramp through the lower-Manhattan neighborhoods. The differences, architectural and social, among Tribeca and SoHo and the East Village, to name only contiguous areas, were distinct and vivid and nameable then: cast-iron buildings shading off into old egg- and paper-carton factories sweetly interrupted by small triangular parks, and edging over, as you walked east, into poor-law tenements that were just being reclaimed by painters. I would set off on a Saturday morning and walk all day, and achieve Kazin’s feeling of vague excitement, of unearned release, in a way that I have never felt before or since.

I like this description because it shows the way he was able to interact with the environment around him as a walker. Suburbs that are designed for cars make walking an outdated form of transportation. It’s inefficient and time consuming if you live in a city that’s designed for cars rather than pedestrians. In the suburbs, there aren’t many people dancing in the ‘sidewalk ballet’ as Jane Jacobs puts it. So, I just wonder what a healthier culture there would be if there were more public space for people to live outward facing lives that brushed up against each other.

The article brings up a quote from Frédéric Gros’s book A Philosophy of Walking, “The purpose of walking, is not to find friends but to share solitude, for solitude too can be shared, like bread and daylight.” This quote to me highlights the sort of communion we can have with each other while walking. While I was walking the Camino, I felt that communion with fellow walkers as well as with the landscape. I was sharing solitude with the landscape. I think taking away that walking aspect of communion in our lives further isolates us from nature. Read more…

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