Geography of Conservation Spending, Biodiversity, and Culture

Geography of Conservation Spending, Biodiversity, and Culture

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A new study from the journal, Conservation Biology has found a strong correlation between countries that are richest in biodiversity and their tendency to spend on conservation. This study found that tropical countries with the most biodiversity spend the least on conservation and “tend to have weak national governance, poor rule of law, and different cultural values than richer temperate countries that spend more on conservation.” To some, this might seem like an obvious conclusion simply from the assumption that countries with less governance will have weaker conservation regulations. But let it be known that this isn’t such a black and white issue, it has more than what meets the eye.

There are a couple major geographical components that must be considered. The first one is the inverse relationship between biodiversity and money spent; the more biodiversity a country has, the less money it tends to spend on conservation efforts. This pattern is visible across many tropics regions across the globe. This study claims that if the location of a country is situated in between the tropics, it is deemed as a place with a lesser chance to spend larger amounts of money for conservation.

While money and governance are important factors to consider in regards to a country’s competence to spend money on conservation efforts, there is a key geographical component that tends to be forgotten. This key component is the cultural geography aspect, which is the focus of the study by Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Peter Rankin from The University of Queensland. Peter Rankin, co-author of the study found that, “Cultures that are promoting biodiversity conservation through spending need to adapt their thinking and strategies to accommodate the cultures with the biodiversity…It really demonstrates the complexity of the world and the need to come together and think through multiple perspectives to solve conservation issues.” 

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The countries rich in wildlife also share cultural traits that are often different from wealthier temperate countries. For example, according to McClanahan and Rankin, “Countries in the tropics tend to display collectivism, where individuals see themselves as highly interconnected, loyal groups, defined by their relations and social context. In such societies, species that are iconic or form an important part of traditions or social customs may stand a better chance of receiving conservation attention. In contrast, temperate countries tend to display individualism, where individuals in the society see themselves as separate and autonomous from each other. In these societies, concepts of conservation based on the intrinsic right to life might work better.” While these are the most shared cultural traits found in each of the different regions, there are still deviations from the trend that exist. The concluding finding from the study was that “careful examination of the cultural context of a country is essential for conservation to succeed.”

Read the article to learn more about how the cultural values of a country can heavily impact their desire to implement conservation efforts.

Written by Hana Goldstein

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