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Behaviour Changes towards Conservation Projects

Conservation scientists should be interested in social-psychological approaches, such as human behaviour changes that could influence natural-resource management, according to St John et al (2010). In my perspective, some conservation projects must consider population behaviour changes in order to shift management techniques and even policy making, and before expecting behaviour and attitudes to change, education of society has to be considered has a priority.

According to Masud et al (2015) societies with higher levels of education are predisposed to positive environmental behaviour, as they are more responsible and competent with knowledge, values, and skills to improve environmental solutions. A great example how education changed community behaviour, is the environmental education projects in the islands of S.Tomé and Principe regarding turtles conservation. When it started in 2012, turtles were still commercialized and consumed by local community, however after several projects of environmental education, focusing not only children but elders too, nowadays can be considered a success case, considering that during reproduction season, local communities help to protect new-born turtles on their way to the ocean.

Taking into account the socio-economic status of communities, education itself might not be enough to change behaviours, since a lower income community will not accept changes that can decrease their welfare. Consequently, education must be linked with gaining of knowledge, so communities could benefit in improving their skills and techniques (Nilsson et al, 2016). It is the case of communities dependent of agriculture, where using fertilizers is almost mandatory, however, lack of knowledge sometimes might result in overuse and consequently pollution of watersheds. Education actions in these communities aiming the technological improvement, regarding the right amount of fertilizers per species, would benefit the environment/water quality as well as the farmers since it would reduce their investment in fertilizers.

Nevertheless, to use education as a factor to change behaviours, cultural assessment of communities must be acknowledged so the ways of teaching and presenting knowledge can be adapted to achieve better results. Presenting arguments in a developed country, with educated people is not the same as presenting the same arguments to people without education in a developing country, as their understanding might be limited by lack of background knowledge. I believe cultural and socio-economic factors should be studied in advance, thus the “teacher” can establish a connection with the audience so they can relate to what is being said.

For example, coal prices decreased recently in India, due to increased extraction, being more affordable to poor people, that until now have been using cow dung has combustible. Because coal emits more CO2 than cow dung combustion, environmental institutions are concerned about climate change effects, considering that India has around 1.3 billion of people. Approaching these communities trying to relate them to global warming and potential extreme climates changes in the future, will not be successful considering they struggle to survive comparing to western countries with vast polluting industries that have been causing the problem.

In conclusion, my point of view is human behaviour should always be considered in conservation/environmental projects since human communities are inevitably connected with ecosystems. Also, because human behaviour is driven by demographic and socio-economic factors, to have behaviour adjustment, education must be considered.

References

Masud, M.M., Kari, F.B., (2015), Community attitudes towards environmental conservation behaviour: An empirical investigation within MPAs, Malaysia, Marine Policy 52, 138-144

Nilsson, D., Baxter, G., Butler, J.R.A., McAlpine, C.A., (2016) How do community-based conservation programs in developing countries change human behaviour? A realist synthesis, Biological Conservation 200, 93-103

St John, F.A.V., Edward-Jones, G., Jones, J.P.G., (2010), Conservation and human behaviour: lessons from social psychology, Wildlife Research 37, 658-667

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