Policies and Politics

          Scientist often do a great job and finding out the truth about nature and about life but often we do a terrible job at telling people what it is we have learned and much worse job at conveying our finding to influential people that can put our knowledge to practice.  The debate about policies is an old one among conservation biologists.  However, even the most adamant advocates for conservation policies shy away from getting involved into politics.  Most of them feel that politics is not something we should do, probably due to all the, well deserved, bad reputation that politicians have.  This is the reason that many people are often surprised that I do have a very unambiguous political opinion and I often am very proactive about sharing it.

          I guess that part of the reason for that is the fact that I have had the dubious opportunity of witnessing 5 coup de tat's that occurred in a country when I happened to be in.  I was in Ecuador during the coup that overthrew Jamil Mahuad in 2000 and I also happened to be in the country again in 2005 when Lucio Gutierrez was ousted.  I also was in Venezuela during the coup against president Chávez in April 11th 2002 and also was lucky enough to participate on the taking back of the government by the revolutionary forces on the 13th.  That's four, the other coup de tat that I witnessed was the 2000 election in the US that, I know, the time will eventually regard it as the first coup in the US's history.

One event that brought the point home very strongly was on the preparation to the invasion to Iraq.  I had been worry about it for a while but I hoped that the US will not go without the support of the UN.  It so happened that I was on a expedition to Roraima, a tepuy that is shared between Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil.  As we approached the skirt of the mountain, we could, on occasions, catch BBC broadcast in a small radio.  It was disheartening when we heart on March 19th 2003 that the US was starting the invasion to Iraq, under phone excuses, in a shameless attempt to loot the country from their oil resources.  Then as we enjoyed the beauty of the pristine forest, doing basic research on the natural history and diversity of the area, the radio waves brought us the sobering message that we could not avoid even in the depth of the tropical forest.  What does it matter?  Why bother doing research and learning about the animals and wildlife? What does it matter to develop conservation plans that will protect biodiversity?  If we are all hostage of the greed of a few people that have the resources, political clout and media complicity to do anything they want?  How can we bury our head in the sand and ignore that our research will not go anywhere so long as the fundamentals of the working of the society are all going in the wrong direction?

There is no point in working in conservation to solve some conservation problems if we do not address the main problem that is producing the conservation problems (click here to revise the problem in anaconda conservation).  While conservation biologists offer shy solutions that do not solve the problems, this distract the attention from offering real solutions which ends up hurting the cause more than helping it (click here for a full discussion).