It is a sad fact that the vast majority, probably 99.99%, of the six or seven billion specimens of the species Homo sapiens (or Homo stupidissimus, as Desmond Cole of Lithops fame fondly called them) will go from cradle to grave without understanding that they were, during their lifetimes, in the most amazing, incredibly beautiful, mesmerisingly fascinating place - the world. Reaching this point of appreciation is not easy and only a few of us get the brief glimpse of the world's majesty that kick-starts the process of attempting to contextualise this magnificence, an endless, insatiable quest, bearing in mind the vastness and the intricacies involved.
Conservation, in its purest form, is likely to be the upshot of the realisation that much of what exists should be preserved for other like-mindeds, however life takes place in the real world, surrounded by folk whose main interests are power, wealth, sex and substance, or even sometimes, simply survival. The genocidal, xenophobic rapists of yore are the ancestors whose blood now courses through the veins of humanity, those archae-new-agers not having survived the competition; and it is from this source that the often perverse need for power, wealth, sex and substance has arisen.
The conservationist and the exterminator, the people who have the power, wealth, sex and substance, as well as those who are short of one or more or all of these 'commodities' are all humans and all cut from the same cloth. Wolves also wear sheep's clothing: the politician wearing the "Save the Whales" button on his blazer, probably has more interest in the votes of those who wear such buttons out of more genuine conviction, that the whales themselves. It is always a good idea to examine the motives of any potential collaborator.
Concepts of conservation have been around for many years, but have failed to stop the complete destruction of whole species. Man is consuming the world's resources at a prodigious rate, and nobody can offer any evidence that this is going to stop until there is absolutely nothing left. There are always excuses, usually couched in terms of 'Human Rights', why such-and-such resource should be progressively destroyed. The conservationist can wring his hands all he likes, but an open patch of pristine nature is not going to bring any politician anywhere near as many votes as a squatter camp popped onto that piece of ground.
You have been warned. Conservation is not for the faint of heart. So what can be done? Realising the possible futility of the quest, doing something will at least allow one to look at oneself in the mirror of a morning, and even if that is the only result, it is better than doing nothing.
In the next part, we will start to consider what can be done.

© 2003-2009 Greig Russell