When mountain bike riders clear unauthorised trails, move earth and install jumps in a patch of bushland, they’re the baddies, right? Not necessarily. Every visit to the wilderness causes an impact, and the challenge for conservation managers is balancing that while trying to help people maintain a connection with nature.
Did you make a cubby house when you were a child? Did you climb trees, dig holes, drag branches and smell the leaf litter as you went about playing in the bush?
That experience was both ecologically destructive and imperative for the future of conservation.
Let me explain.
There is a correlation between the amount of time children spend playing outdoors and the strength of their conservation ethic when they grow up. Hearing the creaking sounds of trees moving in the wind, learning that lizards live in the fallen logs and the discovering the feathery skeleton of a deceased magpie: these experiences can have strong implications in terms of empathy for living creatures, and understanding the importance of ecosystems.
Of course, by dragging branches across the earth, adding plastic to the environment and disturbing nesting birds in the vicinity, that one cubby house also has an impact on the immediate environment.
This particular ethical see-saw is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ‘messy issues’ faced by conservation land managers, according to Professor Catherine Pickering from the Environment Futures Research Institute at Griffith University.
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