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We really have a problem of incentives

March 11, 2013

So it’s been a day since I started this blog and not surprisingly, I haven’t got a visit. I guess conservation is not really the most popular topic on today’s internet, being another problem that conservation faces.

Conservation can be a lot of fun, but it is not generally regarded as ‘cool’ and the same happens with any good cause. While things like planting threes, recycling and helping people in need are known as ‘good’, the general public constantly chooses to leave the work for others. I’m one of those others, and while I’d like to do more than I do, sometimes I just can’t.

The very first problem that many conservationists would mention is the lack of funding. I agree that especially in this economic crisis conservation funding has got scarce. But I wonder what my colleagues would do if they get the insane amounts of money they think they need. I personally have been in the situation when you don’t see how to spend the funds you already got. It’s easy to burn the money, but putting it on good use is a whole different story.

If you haven’t found a solution to a problem, it doesn’t matter how much money you do have, it will worth nothing. Unfortunately, many conservationists seek funds for the sake of funds, aiming to be able to pay their bills instead of having a meaningful conservation impact. We have the bad incentive to attract funds to where we work instead of letting them go to where we know they are better needed, and to constantly bend the truth in order to get them. When actually solving a problem will make you lose your job, it is not surprise that many “problems” are simply made up and not real solutions are ever found. Why would anyone kill their cash cow? We really have a problem of incentives here. In practice is not rare that some “professional” conservationist actually hurt the biodiversity by diverting funds from where they would be useful.

But conservation needs money, so If you have the opportunity to support a conservation project just make sure it is led by a truly passionate conservationist. When they don’t make their personal money from conservation it can be a good sign. Most conservation organizations have an ad honorem board of directors.

Lack of funds may be a problem, but money availability posses another problem that is not frequently acknowledged. Good news is that we can help both by donating to carefully selected initiatives.

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