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It’s a people problem, not a pest problem – Wayne Linklater

Posted in Reflections On Science on July 28th, 2016.

In the hubbub following the Government’s call for a predator-free New Zealand, one point has been missing, writes Dr Wayne Linklater in the Dominion Post: NZ isn’t people-free.

Bubs Smith/DOC

Whio. Bubs Smith/DOC

An excerpt (read in full here):

Wayne Linklater: It’s a people problem, not a pest problem

Increasingly, as recent efforts to make Stewart Island predator-free or neighbourhoods cat-free have found, the greatest challenge is not how to kill predators and defend landscapes from animal reinvasion. The most difficult problem is how to convince people that this is a worthwhile goal and to co-operate in it. That requires changing people’s thinking and behaviour – a Herculean task.

It is common for conservationists to assume that their values are in the majority but this is not true. The zealot’s naivete that just because they believe so passionately in conservation that everyone else must do to, or could easily be convinced to, is all too common. In reality, most people don’t care about conservation or, at least, they care much less about conservation than they care about other things. And, of course inevitably, some of those things that are important to them will conflict with the values and aspirations of conservationists.

Aotearoa is a diverse community. We are a nation of people with divergent values, beliefs and behaviours, even when it comes to the environment and conservation. Some people will want to trade in possum fur. Some will want to keep a cat. Some rats will be considered taonga. Some will want to hunt exotic wildlife and some don’t like killing – period. And all these people will also be the neighbours of others who want to kill rats, cats and possums. It’s the classic recipe for environmental conflict.

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