Passive Conservation

A couple weeks ago while working on my YouTube series “Healthy You, Healthy Earth”, I started discussing a topic which I realize I haven’t covered too much before. We all focus on the tangible concrete actions to take when protecting the environment, not many realize how important the EMOTIONAL side of conservation is.

While I try to be as optimistic as possible without being overly Pollyanna, I do recognize the dire situation the planet is currently in. And that means we need as many people doing what they can. Everyone is different, and can pitch in to help in different ways. But one thing is certain, if people don’t CARE, they won’t ACT. Passive conservation brings out the emotion of caring. Once we care enough to act, it leads to active conservation.

Many of us are already at the active stage, and don’t need any more inspiration, but just because we are already motivated to act doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy how passive conservation works.

But what is passive conservation? Well, I pretty much made it up. But just because I haven’t found another term for what I am describing doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Richard Louv coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder” to describe the disconnect the younger generations are experiencing with nature, the outdoors, animals, and preserving our world. And while it isn’t a “real diagnosis”, many teachers, educators, conservationists, and naturalists agree that nature deficit disorder is real.

Passive conservation is like that. It is one of the best cures for nature deficit disorder, and it is one of the best paths toward active conservation.

Passive conservation is the leisure or recreational activity of enjoying the outdoors. Plain and simple. A walk in the park, a visit to the zoo, a picnic, visiting the beach, horseback riding, visiting a farmers’ market, riding a bike, kayaking, flying a kite on a windy day, or enjoying a whale watching cruise. The list can go on and on. If you are enjoying something outdoors, it is passive conservation.

By enjoying oneself, we appreciate the outdoors. We fall in love and find what I call our “sacred space”. We return again and again because it literally connects us to the earth in positive ways. The place calls to us, and we always heed it. We get a membership to the zoo because we enjoyed watching all the animals with our children. We return the farmer’s market because they have the best selection of produce you’ve ever tasted. The park near our home is our favorite place to take our dog.

The more we appreciate our sacred space, the more we are willing to protect it, or even similar places. And with this gradual tug on our heart, we turn to active conservation.

Zoos are, in my opinion, masters of passive conservation. Even if you never consciously did anything more than repeatedly visit the zoo, you still contribute to conservation simply by BEING at the zoo. But chances are, if you visit the zoo, you are inspired to do more for animals and nature.

We learn that orangutans, rhinos, or elephants are affected by the palm oil industry, and change our behavior to help protect them. Falling in love with polar bears, walrus, and other majestic arctic animals may inspire us to combat climate change. Watching the beautiful tropical birds, reptiles, and amphibians may motivate us to change our habits to help stop deforestation.

But zoos are not the only ways we shift from passive to active conservation. Taking a regular walk in a nature park or wooded area brings upon an appreciation for trees. The fresh air, natural exercise, beauty around us moves our spirit, and we want this place to be here forever. This revelation of how special this place is to you may inspire us to donate to organizations to preserve trees and natural places. Or to plant trees. Or volunteer with the park to keep it beautiful. All are ways of moving from passive (appreciation) to active (intentional activity) conservation.

Even leisure activities like attending a talk on a particular animal at your local library, or going out to your favorite brewery on a night a conservation organization is hosting a Pints for Conservation event are ways our leisure activities can lead to conservation action.

This all stems from the idea Baba Dioum once said: “For in the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” But for me, the first of that is love. Love is the secret to unlocking all potential- within ourselves, and within each other.

Find what you love. Explore it, let it seep into your soul. Adore it, and appreciate it, and then do whatever you can to protect it.

That’s the power of passive conservation.

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