The International League of Conservation Writers is a forum to bring writers together from around the world who are writing to promote wilderness, nature, conservation, or using other means to protect and restore the natural areas, habitats, animals, and plants of our planet. ILCW will present periodic writing awards to authors who excel in this field.

International League of Conservation Writers

Writing to inspire the love of nature and a passion for its protection.


MEMBER WRITING

New Book Aims to Bring Scientist and Public Together

By Diogo Verissimo

Scientists love to talk to other scientists but while this is an important part of the scientific process, the reluctance to engage with those outside scientific circles is a likely contributor to the growing distrust between scientists and the public. The project “BIOgraphies: The lives of those who study life”, in the original Portuguese “BIOgrafias: Vidas de quem estuda a vida”, hopes to begin tackling this issue. With it we aimed to bring the life of field biologists to the public in a format that is not only free from scientific jargon but also compatible with the competing interests faced by readers.

Telling the tale

The project’s goal was to provide both a channel to tackle the communication challenges described above and a mechanism to fundraise for future conservation outreach efforts. We found the best medium to fulfil these criteria was a book, a compilation of short field stories written by biologists and conservationists. The stories were chosen for being landmarks in the career of those who lived them and had a strong human angle, as to emphasize bot the context of each episode but also the emotions of those involved.

As such, prospective authors were given two simple rules: the length of the stories had a maximum of 5000 characters and the narrative had to be presented as an engaging first person narrative. In order to support the written narratives with a visually impacting element, each author was asked to provide a photograph, from which an illustration (Figure 1) was drawn for each story.

We contacted authors mainly through word of mouth, reaching more than 100 biologists. Eighteen of them accepted to be part of the project. Each author submitted between one and eight stories leading to a total of 35. Overall the stories had a broad geographic spread, taking place in 16 countries, across all continents except Antarctica. Portugal was, unsurprisingly, the most represented country with 11 stories, followed by Uganda with four and Spain, Italy, Seychelles, Costa Rica, Madagascar and Mozambique with two stories each.

The funds required to print the first edition of the book, consisting of 500 copies, were gathered though an online crowdfunding campaign managed by the book editors in cooperation with the publisher.

Lessons Learned

In this project we focus on the perspective of the protagonists instead of complex scientific results which are often difficult to communicate. By telling our story, we hope to capture the interest of the reader, who has the option to investigate further any aspect he or she finds interesting.

  1. Scientists are often not motivated to write for non-academic audiences and this led some professionals to refuse to be part of the project. Research and education institutions should provide more incentives and support in this arena.
  2. Transmitting science does not necessarily mean transmitting the scientific findings themselves. Many readers felt the need to voluntarily research further into the work of each scientist as they read the short stories.
  3. Field biologists and conservationists have a wealth of stories to share. Harnessing this potential can be a powerful tool.
  4. Opting for a crowdfunding approach was a great vehicle to raise awareness for the project, due to the necessary investment in promoting the project. Nevertheless, online crowdfunding requires a large investment of time and effort.

In a time where initiatives to mainstream science multiply, it is important not to forget trialled and tested methods such as storytelling. They can surely play as big of a role in the future of science as they have played in the history of human knowledge transmission.

Note: This text is based on Veríssimo and Pais (2014) Conservation beyond science: scientists as story tellers. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6 (12): 6529-6533.



MEMBER NEWS

Conservationist Harvey Locke wins international award for his work

Colette Derworiz, Calgary Herald  11.23.2014

A well-known Alberta conservationist has added another honour to his long list of achievements. Harvey Locke, one of the founders of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, has received the Fred M. Packard International Parks Merit Award — one of the world’s highest honours for conservation — for his work.

It was presented at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia earlier this month.

Locke was recognized for his work in parks, wilderness and large landscape conservation and his international contributions toward those efforts through law, policy, communications and education.

“Conservation is a team sport,” he said in a statement. “I share this with the many friends and colleagues who form part of the Y2Y community and those at CPAWS, the WILD Foundation, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.”

Locke has previously received the J.B. Harkin Award for Conservation and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.


The Fred M. Packard International Parks Merit Award states:

“Harvey Locke is globally recognized as a leader in wilderness, national park, and large landscape conservation law, policy, communications, and education. His particular strength has been the integration of these fields, and in creating an inspiring vision from his native North America that has led to applied outcomes of global importance. He has given practical support to this by engaging directly in a number of lawsuits leading to major conservation victories in North America and providing important legal precedents in favour of nature conservation. His main achievement has been creating an inspiring vision for National Parks and Wilderness areas and the importance of maintaining their largely intact biological diversity in the face of global challenges such as climate change and fragmentation of ecosystems. His abiding influence has been his ability to communicate this vision, and to engage the public and decision-makers in support of large scale conservation programmes, including the Canadian Boreal Initiative and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and inspiring global leadership in large landscape-scale nature conservation programmes.”

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Merchants of Doubt film exposes slick US industry behind climate denial

Robert Kenner’s forthcoming documentary lifts the lid on the ‘professional deceivers’ manipulating US debate on climate change

By ILCW member Stephen Leahy

Who remembers that climate change was a top priority early in George W Bush’s first term as US president? Merchants of Doubt, a new documentary film released in US cinemas this week, reminds us that in June 2001 Bush and the Republican party were 100% committed to curbing carbon emissions causing global warming.

Six months later everything changed. The film shows Republican party leader John Boehner calling the idea of global warming “laughable”, said Merchants of Doubt director Robert Kenner.

With the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center occupying attention, Americans For Prosperity, a powerful, fossil-fuel lobby group founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, launched a decade-long, multi-pronged campaign to sow doubt about the reality of climate change.

MORE

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Merchants of Doubt film exposes slick US industry behind climate denial

Robert Kenner’s forthcoming documentary lifts the lid on the ‘professional deceivers’ manipulating US debate on climate change

By ILCW member Stephen Leahy

Who remembers that climate change was a top priority early in George W Bush’s first term as US president? Merchants of Doubt, a new documentary film released in US cinemas this week, reminds us that in June 2001 Bush and the Republican party were 100% committed to curbing carbon emissions causing global warming.

Six months later everything changed. The film shows Republican party leader John Boehner calling the idea of global warming “laughable”, said Merchants of Doubt director Robert Kenner.

With the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center occupying attention, Americans For Prosperity, a powerful, fossil-fuel lobby group founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, launched a decade-long, multi-pronged campaign to sow doubt about the reality of climate change.

MORE

FEATURED VIDEO


MEMBER NEWS

Conservation Loses Two Giants

ILCW mourns the loss of South African Ian Player, ILCW member, founder of the Wilderness Leadership School, and known as the man who saved the White Rhino.  We also mourn the passing of American Martin Litton, who was instrumental in saving, among others, the great redwoods from logging and Point Reyes National Seashore, both in California. Please see more about these giants in the following stories.





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Ian Player

Nature conservation pioneer and legend, 87 year old Dr. Ian Player, passed away peacefully at midday on 30 November 2014 after a short illness. He was at home surrounded by his family. Despite physical challenges that hounded him all his life, Ian worked tirelessly until his last day, fully committed to his life’s work of nature conservation and his quest to understand the human spirit and psyche. His legacy is without parallel, his example without equal.

Ian Cedric Audley Player was born on 15 March 1927, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Educated at St. John’s College, he went on to serve in the SADF - 6th South African Armoured Division attached to the American 5th Army, in Italy 1944-1945.

A globally recognized conservation legend, Dr. Ian Player was a pioneer, a visionary and an activist who has profoundly influenced conservation and changed the lives of countless people. He grew up in the pioneering days of nature conservation in Africa, working for months on end in the wilderness.

On his return from WWII he worked underground in the gold mines before taking a position in the (then) Natal Parks Board. He rose to the rank of Chief Conservator of Zululand by the time he took early retirement, in 1974. He was made a member of the board on three occasions, the only Parks Board staff member to do so.

From 1952, as Warden of the iMfolozi Game Reserve, Dr. Player spearheaded two important and far-reaching initiatives. The first was Operation Rhino, in which he led the team that pioneered the methods and drugs to immobilize and translocate large mammals. The team captured and moved many of the remaining population of southern white rhino to save them from the brink of extinction. As a direct result, white rhinos now inhabit their former distribution range within many national parks and game reserves, private game farms, zoos and parks around the world.

The second initiative was Dr. Player’s recognition of the value of wilderness for the human spirit and for biodiversity conservation. Professionally, this led to the designation of the iMfolozi and St. Lucia Wilderness Areas in the late 1950s -- the first wilderness areas to be zoned in South Africa and on the African continent. It also fired his personal quest to understand the human psyche through dreams and drawing on the work of Swiss analyst Carl Jung, which he explored assiduously for decades with the late Sir Laurens van der Post. Dr. Player was one of the founding forces for the Cape Town Centre for Applied Jungian Studies, the first such center in Africa.

Dr. Player resigned from the Natal Parks Board to focus his energies on the wilderness movement. He continued conservation work within the NGO sector, leading to one of his most notable achievements - the founding of the globally recognized Wilderness Leadership School (WLS). For forty years, the School has been bringing young people of all races into the Wilderness for personal discovery.

The WLS was the nucleus from which many other collaborative organizations have emerged, including the World Wilderness Congress (WWC) -- implemented by Vance Martin and the WILD Foundation on behalf of the Wilderness Network -- held every three to four years in various countries throughout the world. From South Africa to India, Australia to Scotland, Spain to Alaska, more than 1,200 scientists, artists, business leaders and educators, gather to exchange ideas on  wilderness.

Ian Player was also the founding force of the Wilderness Foundation (Africa) Wilderness Foundation (UK), The WILD Foundation (USA), and the Magqubu Ntombela Memorial Foundation (in honor of his friend, colleague, and mentor). Under the auspices of Andrew Muir, who worked alongside and was mentored by Ian Player, the Wilderness Foundation SA has become one of the major conservation organizations in southern Africa.

Until very recently, Ian Player continued to serve on the Boards of these organizations that today play a significant role in conservation in Africa and globally. Despite life-long physical challenges that steadily increased with age, he nonetheless worked tirelessly on his life’s work for wild nature.

Ian Player has written many books of which White Rhino Saga, South African Passage and Zulu Wilderness: Shadow and Soul are probably best known.

He is survived by his wife Ann Player, sons Kenneth and Amyas, daughter Jessica, and their families. His younger brother is the golfer, Gary Player.

--Bob Baron

Zulu Wilderness: Shadow and Soul, written by Ian Player

Martin Litton

One of America’s giants of conservation, passed away November 30th. He was 97 years old and he stands alongside David Brower as one of the most influential persons in the modern-day environmental movement. Martin was an accomplished writer and photographer and he served for many years as editor of the popular Sunset magazine. He served on the board of directors of the Sierra Club for more than a decade.

In the 1960s the Bureau of Reclamation had planned to build two major dams in the Grand Canyon. The bureau was nearly ready to start pouring concrete when Litton and Brower took on the battle to stop that insane scheme - and won. In addition, Litton was largely responsible for saving the redwoods from rampant logging and to help create both a Redwoods National Park and a separate state park in northern California. There were numerous other places that Martin was influential in saving, among them Point Reyes National Seashore.







Martin Litton, center. Photo by Boyd Norton

I had the privilege of making a trip down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon with Martin in 1968. He was an expert river runner and now holds the record of being the oldest person to row the Colorado River’s fearsome rapids. He was 87 when he did that. He was also an accomplished (and fearless) pilot and I once watched in awe as he easily and flawlessly landed his Cessna 195 on a short and dangerous airstrip in the Salmon River gorge in Idaho.

Once, when I was still a nuclear physicist, I was sitting in my office out in the desert of Idaho and had a phone call from Martin. Excitedly he told me about a new book that had just been published. For almost 40 minutes he read me excerpts from the book. The year was 1968 and the book was called Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. The book went on to become a classic in conservation and literary annals and Martin became good friends with Abbey.

David Brower, who was a passionate and uncompromising conservationist himself, once remarked that Martin Litton was even more unwavering when it came to saving wilderness. Brower called him “my conservation conscience.”

I was privileged to spend time with Martin and his equally energetic wife Esther this past April at his home in Portola Valley while doing a video interview with him. He was still as passionate about saving wilderness. His video is now an important archive of wisdom and knowledge on conservation. The world will miss him, but his legacy will live on.


--Boyd Norton


Legendary conservationist Martin Litton provides an inside account on what it took to save the Grand Canyon from proposed damns and what we face today to continue the good fight.


CALENDAR

June 1 6, 2015

The 8th Annual Literature and Landscape of
the Horse Retreat


A unique writing adventure for anyone who yearns for nature, longs to reconnect with horses, and hungers for creative inspiration in an authentic western ranch setting. To be held at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch, Laramie, Wyoming.

For more information.


International League of Conservation Writers ● 4690 Table Mountain Dr., Suite 100 ● Golden, Colorado, USA 80403 ● Phone: 303-277-1623 ● www.ilcwriters.org
Content copyright 2014. International League of Conservation Writers. All rights reserved
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