DIY Conservation

The recent decision of the WA Government to start culling sharks off the Western Australian coast means the world as we know it is fast disappearing. This seems such a monumentally ignorant decision given the state of shark populations worldwide. Clearly, we are dealing with people utterly immune to what is happening in the world around them and completely oblivious to the long term consequences of their actions.

Conservation efforts worldwide are in big trouble.

In Australian politics we are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. With the governing Coalition we have arrogance and intransigence, the Greens are dangerously naive and give the “fairies at the bottom of the garden” a bad name and the ineptitude of the ALP when it comes to designing and implementing anything practical is well demonstrated. All exhibit fixed and ideological perspectives that they are unable to modify, and this brings them all into conflict and unable to cooperate on anything meaningful.

Once upon a time, short-lived creatures such as ourselves could have been excused for being unable to appreciate the long-term impacts we have on the systems that support us. Now we have no excuse. We have vast amounts of new knowledge and understanding about our environmental systems and an abundance of appreciation of the potential dangers we face should we continue to degrade these systems. The changes being wrought in our living systems through our action and inaction are now demonstrably occurring within the space of years and decades, where similar changes in the past have taken 1000’s of years.

We have placed our foot on the accelerator and we are on a downward slope.

Extinction rates are accelerating, natural habitats are diminishing, human populations are expanding at an insupportable rate, soils are being lost and the oceans are being acidified and poisoned. To top this off, there is now evidence to show that we are unfavorably impacting the very climate of the Earth due to the continued dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and still the penny is not dropping.

The instability that these phenomena will bring about could have unpredictable domino effects worldwide that will impact us dramatically. Extreme climate conditions combined with population, food and water security issues in various parts of the world could have devastating and unforeseeable impacts here in safe and complacent Australia. Interconnected and brittle world economies ensure we are all in the same boat.

These sorts of concerns and a big picture item like “the Environment” is the type of thing we generally leave to decision makers high up. It is after all, so crucial to our future existence they must be taking care of business … Right?


The “environment” has been politicised and it’s no longer about meaningful, focused action to address issues, it’s about political point-scoring within short-term election cycles and proving the party line correct, while the others are all wrong.

The climate-change debate serves to illustrate this adversarial approach nicely. The semantics and chicanery being applied by both sides of the political divide around this issue is shameful. One side remains very much intransigent in their view of the climate change as something that just happens naturally. The other side consistently attacks them in response citing “definitive scientific proof” of man-made climate change, but in doing so make a mockery of their own “scientific” stance by consistently confusing potential correlations with actual causation.

Just once I’d like to hear reasoned scientists having this discussion instead of politicians reinterpreting their views for political mileage.

Right and wrong is now irrelevant and it matters not which ideology you favour.

If there is even the slightest of possibilities that human activities are a contributing factor to climate change we must ACT now and make a serious attempt to modify or remove these activities from the equation.  But no, we continue to talk about it, devise protocols on and sit on our hands. It is a pointless exercise to produce policies for long term and sustained change if they are not going to be supported by consecutive Governments.

A new bipartisan approach is demanded for serious issues such as the environment, but cooperation is at complete odds with the notion of winning and losing – so it isn’t going to happen.

If we were serious about means of generating clean, non-greenhouse-gas generating sources of electricity other than coal, surely we would encourage the adoption of solar and wind technologies more? The efforts made in this space have been token only. We are happy to hand out baby-bonuses and yet scale back subsidies for solar because “we can’t afford it”.  We can’t afford NOT to keep encouraging alternate energy sources.

While climate is the big ticket item at the moment, it’s of equal importance that we tackle the myriad other deadly issues that are so far being bungled. We have become afraid to speak out against population growth because it’s viewed as politically incorrect for a first world country to impose their views on a developing one – even if that developing one is going to hell in a hand basket due to population issues. Water is another topic that not enough is being done about. Globally, we do not have enough to service our growing populations, and what we do have we are badly contaminating. Bio-diversity is another crucial battleground, the numbers of plants and animals now extinct or on the endangered list are out of control.

Seriously, how can we condone the slaughter of sentient species such as Elephants, Rhinos and Tigers because of a fondness of ivory trinkets or primitive belief systems around powdered animal product providing improved erectile function? The list of greed-based, senseless and unnecessary killing goes on and it seems there’s little we can do about it.

But maybe we can do something …

We know now that little meaningful action will come in time from a political level. The Nero’s will continue to fiddle while Rome burns so it is beholden upon everyone do do something to ensure future generations experience the many wonders of the world that we have taken for granted.

There is only one person who can make a difference and that is you – we all have a responsibility to become involved irrespective of our “levels of busyness” and start doing things. A reactive one-off letter to an MP protesting the inhumane treatment of cattle because we saw it on Four Corners is not enough, we need to be aware and we must be proactive.

To assist in this I have pulled together a few broad rules of thumb based on real life experience in this space that may help. They are not a recipe for success but your additions, deletions and adjustments to suit your context could potentially make them so!

How to make a difference …

1) Accept Responsibility. Others are not going to be able to all that is needed. If only a couple of million more people around the world started to become active and accept responsibility for what is going on, a huge difference could be made. It can no longer be left up to those already in the game because they are swamped. Everyone needs to start contributing. If the state of the world itself is the end-game here, we will never find a greater motivation to become involved.

2) Get some skin in the game. Not all environmental issues will “float your boat” so find something that you have an interest in and concentrate your efforts there. It could be climate, the preservation of a certain animal you are fond of, fund raising for favored issues, raising awareness of key issues or even a local issue around planning – it really doesn’t matter – just get involved. Do what you are comfortable doing and enjoy doing it. Personally, I like the idea of saving the Asian Elephant from extinction so that is the field I have become involved in without any prior insight or knowledge about elephants. We are all part of the problem – that is the problem! We need to ALL become part of the solution too.

3) Don’t to it alone. Seek out like minded people who are willing to give something a try and do it together. Rope in friends. Tasks are easier when shared and conducted in a cohort. Most importantly involve your children, they have more skin in the game than any of us.

4) Meet regularly. Momentum is important, meet, discuss and get to know your issue and put some thinking into it. Turn your meetings into a social event. Talk to experts and get their advice. Don’t make it onerous, make it a pleasure.

5) Design and Do Things. Unless we move to action we are wasting our time. No matter what area you wish to focus on, put lots of small actions in place. Trial different things, it doesn’t matter if they don’t work because you learn from the failure and that informs your subsequent efforts. Try not to reinvent the wheel.  Your time, and that if your colleagues is precious, so try new things and break new ground. Others are drawn to action and people are influenced positively when they see momentum.

6) Collaborate & Share. There will be other groups working in similar areas  – Don’t compete with them, work with them or at least in parallel with them. Maybe even join together – don’t be precious about “ownership.” Ideally we should have many small groups slowly coalescing into larger more influential ones. The environmental space is littered with groups working on the same issues yet competing against one another for scarce dollars. The end result is many disparate and uncooperative groups with insufficient influence to do anything meaningful. Work out who else is in the space and work with them wherever possible. Other groups will learn and benefit from your experiences. Learn from them too.

7) See what happens. There is no way of knowing how your efforts will impact on the bigger picture. You don’t have to be an expert. Small things can make a big difference and you may surprise yourselves. You may not save the world or even a single species in the space of a few meetings and projects, but the benefits of involvement can be manyfold.

Seriously, it’s time for everyone to get off their collective rears and start doing something about the state of the world, because if we don’t, no one, but no one, is going to do it for us. If suddenly however we have another few million active in the environment space there is no telling what might be achieved.

What is your skin in the game?

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About the Author

Frank Connolly is the Principal of “Think Quick”, a business that adds value through thinking differently. His work history covers all sectors and includes initiatives that have yielded bottom line benefit in the 10’s of millions of dollars.

Frank has worked across Australia, South East Asia, China, the Middle East and Africa where he has trained and facilitated multiple thinking methods and been acknowledged by Edward de Bono as one of the foremost practitioners of the de Bono thinking methods worldwide.

Frank believes strongly that if we can improve the way we think, the actions that follow also improve.

Comments (1)

  1. Andrew Boyd :

    Hi Frank,

    Great article – there is much to be concerned about, and your call to action at the end is actionable/doable.

    It begs the question… What am I doing? I’ll have to think about that.

    Best regards, Andrew


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