SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
FRANK DISALVO: So good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Frank DiSalvo. I'm the Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. In that capacity and representing Cornell's president David Skorton and provost Kent Fox-- neither of whom is able to be here, they are in fact in New York City accepting a large gift for the New York City Tech campus, I think $130 million, so neither of them is able to be here at the moment-- I welcome you all to the 15th Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture, which is hosted by the Atkinson Center. Since its inception in 1999, the Iscol Lecture has brought eminent scientists, policymakers, and opinion leaders to Cornell to inform and promote discussion of critical issues facing our planet. The Iscol Lectures listed in your program have addressed biodiversity, poverty and inequality, human population growth, chemical ecology, and the design of sustainable infrastructure, to mention a few topics that are central to achieving a sustainable future.
Our 15th Iscol lecturer, Dr. Peter Kareiva, is the chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, and he received his PhD here at Cornell University. He's had a distinguished academic career and has been at the Nature Conservancy for 12 years. He's a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. But you will shortly hear a more expansive introduction to Dr. Kareiva and his lectures, so in a moment I will leave it to Professor Harry Greene to do precisely that.
Let me end by expressing our collective gratitude to Jill and Ken Iscol for their generosity and vision in supporting this annual lecture, which has done so much to help us see the interconnectedness between the many facets of human welfare and the vibrancy and health of the planet's environment. So next I'd like to invite Professor Harry Greene, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to introduce Dr. Kareiva.
HARRY GREENE: Thanks, and good afternoon to everybody. It strikes me that an introduction of a speaker is sort of like a forward to a book in that it sets the stage, maybe says some things about the speaker and the occasion that the author or the speaker wouldn't themselves say. It seems like a lot of planets have lined up today. I actually arrived at Cornell in the spring of '99 and attended the first Iscol Lecture. Today is also the 289th birthday of Immanuel Kant-- I bet not everybody knew that-- who once remarked, two things fill the mind with wonder and awe, the starry heavens above-- and I'd like to think he meant nature writ broadly by that comment-- and the moral law within me.
Today also marks the 44th celebration of Earth Day. And finally, to bring us completely down to the here and now, only about an hour ago, I was standing right there lecturing to 300 freshman biology majors about sea stars, sharks, and other fascinating creatures. So all in all, in a university that makes what I think are really unusually few distinctions among education, research, and broader concerns, April 22nd, 2013, it strikes me as a fine day to ask, where do we stand in terms of the future of biodiversity? And by biological diversity, I actually include humans.
This year's distinguished Iscol lecturer-- distinguished Iscol visitor, because this is a two-day event-- Peter Kareiva, as you just heard received his PhD here in 1991, studying with ecologist Dick Root and mathematician Simon Levin. Then he taught at Brown and the University of Washington for about 20 years total. After a short stint as director of the Northwest Fisheries Center, in 2001 he moved to the Nature Conservancy, where he now serves as the chief scientist of that organization.
Among many accomplishments of Peter's are several highly influential books and election to the National Academy of Sciences. And actually, I could be really expansive and go on and on about his credentials. He has plenty of them to talk about. But instead, I'm going to say that Peter has a well-deserved reputation for being provocative and demanding, especially in terms of evidence. In my experience though he's always open to new ideas and findings, and he's relentlessly, relentlessly supportive of naturalists everywhere, including the 600 TNC scientists whom he mentors.
Let me join Frank in thanking the Iscol family for these wonderful lectureships, which I think so wonderfully advance the goal of integrating diverse interests here on the Cornell campus. And let's please welcome Dr. Peter Kareiva, who will speak on overcoming dogma and prophecies of doom to save nature.
PETER KAREIVA: Whoops. Got to restart the computer here. Restart later. There we go. OK, well it's terrific to be back at Cornell. I don't how many of you are graduate students here but I had a wonderful time here, and it's very nostalgic. It was one of the best periods of my life. Steve Ellner, a fellow graduate student of mine when I was here.
So it's Earth Day today. And I want to sort of frame the talk from the point of view of Earth Day. Earth Day really started in the mind of Gaylord Nelson, Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. It was a speech in Seattle. And this was an excerpt from the speech in 1969. Dr. Power was there. She was probably in grade school then.
But it came out of the '60s. It came out of the sense that the energy of the youth, the energy of the youth about the Vietnam War could also be applied to the environment. And as something that comes out of the '60s, it wasn't well organized. A lot of volunteer help, but tremendous energy. They had over 12,000 events on the first Earth Day. A lot of them are teach-ins. Millions of people participated. The Today Show covered it for 10 hours, and yet they didn't have that much organization. You know, it's just sort of ad hoc and it sprung up.
And a lot came good out of that '60s energy and environment and conservation, and most of you know these things. We had the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act. Less well known is that there was a tremendous push all across the world to protect natural areas, protected areas so that now 14% of the land surface is in some sort of conservation status-- even in the US, the private land movement. So Nature Conservancy started simply as a land trust. Little known in the last decade, more land has been protected for conservation by the land trust than has been developed for development in the US. Tremendously successful.
And things have changed. This is a-- socially and environmentally, things have changed. But in the most recent New Yorker, I have it right here, there's a really interesting essay, and it's called "What Happened to the Environmental Movement?" And it's a review of books asking that question and also talking about Earth Day. And the point of the review, it says right up here, is look, that first Earth Day didn't have any big organizations involved, didn't have any money behind it, but it was very successful. Today the environment and conservation movement is much less successful, even though we can muster hundreds of millions of dollars as we did for climate legislation, and we couldn't even get a vote taken. We couldn't even get a vote taken on the climate bill. Couldn't even get it out to get voted on.
So what happened? What are some of the issues? What do we need to rethink? Well, one of the things that happened was even when you consider, yes, we protected that 14% of the land, but this is a map of countries in which land that was once protected has gone back and been unprotected. So it was set aside-- we call it degazetting-- it was specified as conservation land or conservation parks, and then the governments removed it from that protection. And you can look at those countries and maybe develop some hypothesis for why that is. But I think it's clear there's some serious economic pressures there, and development pressures, and poverty pressures there.
And even where we protect them. I mean you can't have missed in the news the slaughter of African elephants that has recently gone on. The last year set the record for the slaughter of elephants for ivory. And at $1,000 a pound in Beijing for ivory, there's a lot of pressure for it. This is a national park in the Congo, Garamba National Park. They have 140 armed guards. They have grenade launchers. And still they're no match for a military helicopter coming in and killing the elephants for ivory.
And then the story that Harry and I talk about a lot is-- and many people have noticed this-- kids don't get out and do much in nature that much anymore, not as much as they used to in my generation. So that 15 to 17-year-old spends an average of 51 minutes outdoors nowadays. They know more corporate logos than they know common names of species. And there's even been a study published of the children's literature showing that the frequency of talking about animals has declined by 20% to 30% in the last 15 years. So just in children's books they're not talked about. So it's a very different connection between young kids and nature.
And then we have all what I call the doom and gloom messaging of the movement. These are empty ocean, empty skies, salmon will be extinct by 2017. This is not to diminish the seriousness of the environmental problems. But these are not motivating, and we know they're not motivating. And they're also often grossly overstated.
We have sort of scary tactics. This is the Say No to GMOs poster. And a sort of strong anti-technology message or get your kids unplugged and go for all natural. I hate the phrase all natural. You go to a store, you see the phrase all natural. What does it mean? What does it mean? What does all natural mean? And certainly a recognition that companies have done a lot of things that are bad for the environment but carried with this is almost a demonization of companies and big business and big corporations.
In my own experience, I've been involved with a number of issues. And these are all from the US-- these are images just captured that emphasizes save fish, ruin humans; save Daddy's job; critical habitat for endangered farmer, that's in California; miners say, go home, tree huggers; and so forth. Save a log or eat an owl. They all point to a conflict that I think is totally unnecessary between jobs and people and nature. It's unnecessary. I'm not to say it doesn't exist. That conflict does exist in particular settings. But we as conservationists should have found a way to avoid it. And we could. And of course in the extreme, you know, the ultimate sacrifice for nature, right? And you know, I'm not-- some of you are ecologists and naturalists out there. I bet you've been in conversations around the bar sometimes at nights where people have sort of said this.
My own personal experience-- those are all images from around the sort of policy play of conservation. My own personal experience was really was spotted owls, and that's how I got interested in conservation because one of my graduate students had done a really nice model about spotted owls that pertain to whether or not you can cut down old growth, but he didn't have his PhD yet so I had to testify that in a trial. And I was feeling sort of self-delight at what a cool guy I was, being in this trial testifying on behalf of nature. Just pretty filled with myself. But at the back of the federal courthouse were loggers with their children on their shoulders because they couldn't speak out, they couldn't disrupt the courthouse. But there were loggers with children on their shoulders and the kids would cry, and then you'd turn around and look at them and they have signs that said, you care more about owls than my kids.
Now normally that probably wouldn't have affected me. I would have still been self-satisfied and ignored it. But it was just the synchrony. My kids were exactly the same age as those kids. It was '91. And it was exactly the stage, one of my kids, I was carrying them on my shoulders like this where you're hanging on your ankles, and it sort of created an empathy. And it made me think about it a lot. And then of course, raising my kids. You know when your daughter comes home to you and says, Dad, you're a downer. You're so depressing to talk to. You know, it gives you pause.
And so we've been interested, the Nature Conservancy's been interested in making sure we captured this younger generation that doesn't have as much time out in nature as we do. And we've run focus groups in Oakland, Miami, Atlanta, Denver, I think San Antonio is another one. And the transcripts of them say over and over again something like this. We ask them, imagine a person who cares about nature. Describe him. And basically, they describe it as a girl, blond, often wealthy, but they consistently use the word preachy. Preachy. And they also consistently say something like, uptight and really not much fun. Nice, but you don't want to go to a party with them. And actually people like Harry are a lot of fun. So you do want to go party with him.
So how do we, you know-- that's the setting. And now let's reframe it. We have serious problems because of population growth, and we're going to add another 2 billion people. For sure 2 billion, and maybe 3 billion, maybe 4 billion, but probably for sure 2 billion. And that's going to create more problems. But in spite of that, there's a way in which you can think of as a trackable problem.
This is from The Economist, and it shows the precipitous decline in the fertility rate over the last 50 years. So the fertility rate peaked in the '60s when Harry was dating and-- why does this keep coming up?-- and it's been falling since then. And in fact, it's going to continue to fall and we have confidence in it. And in fact, even now one half of the world's population lives in countries where they're not replacing themselves. Their fertility rate's less than 2.1. One half the world's population lives in countries where they're not replacing themselves. So you're going to see headlines from those countries that say, population decline, what's it going to do to our economy? That's going to be the global crisis.
Nonetheless, population still is an issue because in Africa that's not the situation. In Africa, that's not the situation. Africa will be the big one. And they're the population that's going to continue to put pressure on the environment. Even so, we know how to bring it down. Basically, give women access to birth control. Give them education and economic opportunities, and fertility will drop. You don't need a draconian Chinese policy or something like that. It will happen with education, access, and opportunity. And those are not just good things for conservation. Those are good things for economic development, public health, and everything. Access, economic growth, and opportunity.
So we have a sense of how to deal with the population problem. And it is going to level off, so we can sort of do different arithmetic or math to figure out what that means in terms of land and resources. So let's turn to the solutions. And my feeling is that there's no one magic solution. So I'm going to go through a bunch of responses to this environmental and nature crisis and talk about them as sort of a portfolio approach.
One that is growing a lot is to recognize that we don't just save nature and conservation because we love biodiversity and the wonderful animals that are there. We save nature because it's an asset that delivers value to all of society. So we call it nature's assets, or green infrastructure. Probably the best example is a steady supply of fresh water and clean water. So half of the world's cities over 100,000 now, are facing water stress. And it's going to get worse with climate change. Water stress in terms of both the amount of water and the quality of water they get.
And global water consumption is increasing faster than population. We spend a lot of money on water infrastructure, on pipes and treatment plants. Well, we have examples now from Latin America, and where the Quito is the first one where we actually have data to support it, but Quito was suffering in Ecuador for a lack of ample clean water. Well, upstream from Quito is an amazing nature reserve, the Condor Bioreserve, where they have the spectacular Andean condors and a lot of other biodiversity. The city of Quito and industry, hydro power industry, a brewery, a florist have come to pay for conservation upstream, managing that land way upstream to deliver their supply of water. That's green infrastructure. It really is.
Incidentally, that idea came from some Ecuadorians who came to New York City, and read about the Catskill example. That's how New York City is invested. But they actually came and read about it, and they took it back to Latin America. Well, it's expanding. We got funding from FEMSA, which is a globally one of the largest bottling companies there is, and the Inter-American Development Bank to do 32 more of those all over Latin America where you get investments from cities to do upstream conservation. So you're doing serious conservation. It's in the interest of the cities. You're accomplishing my goals, our goals, and you're delivering something of value to this city.
I think it's a broadly applicable thing. The real challenge is that in all these cases, Latin America has centers of wealth. Our challenge is to figure out how it could work in Africa where there's no centers of wealth. So it's a wonderful idea. The ecology would work in Africa, but there's not enough money to do it. But it's still a neat example for one of the solutions.
This one might make you feel a little bit less comfortable. Nature for global corporations. Here's how I think about corporations. I don't demonize them. I think about them as an ecologist. In ecology there's an idea of keystone species, often big predators. The classic example is the California sea otter. A keystone species controls the structure and function of an ecosystem of which it is by whatever it does, competition, predation, or whatever. Take out the California sea otter and what happens? You get a bloom of sea urchins. Get rid of the sea urchins, get a bloom of sea urchins, they eat all the kelp. Get rid of the kelp, you lose the fisheries. Those are keystone species.
Global corporations, in a global ecology sense, are keystone species. And you know, here's examples of them that we work with. Rio Tinto, a keystone species from the mining. Dow, from the chemical industry cargo from the agriculture. What do I mean, keystone species? A lot of people will talk about how big these corporations are and get scared by it, and that's OK. I can see why you do that. But another way of responding to that is saying, my God, look at how big these corporations are. If we can leverage them and work with them, just think of the difference we can make.
So here are some figures. Wal-Mart has a higher GDP of all but 25, I mean, sells more than the GDP of all but 25 countries. Annual sales for Wal-Mart are bigger than the GDP of all but 25 countries. They have more employees. Their employees outnumber the populations of 100 countries. BlackRock, the investment firm based in New York City, manages more money and assets than the national reserves of any country. More than China or US. They're managing more assets than the national reserves of any country. And you know it used to be World Health and things like that. Gates Foundation, a private foundation, is distributing more money for help than the World Health Organization. Private enterprise.
And there's a trend in that. Over 3/4 of the Fortune 500 companies have sustainability officer and issue serious sustainability reports. And just to give you the rapid growth, in '92 there were only 26 firms that did. In 2010, over 3,000. Now I've read all of the ones for the 500, because I'm doing research on it, but I've read these reports. They're not all great. Some of them are a little bit fluffy. But they're honest because they could be sued. If they misreported data and somebody wanted to dig in it, they can be sued. So their shortcoming is that they don't actually report useful data. They just report words. But a lot of them report useful data, and very interesting data.
And why do they do it? They do it for a number of reasons. They do it because they think-- they're not doing it to be good. They're doing it because they think it's good for their business. So here's our hypothesis. Given this trend in companies, if we can change business practices, make it clear that there are certain situations where you can do something for your business and guess what, it also turns out to be really, really good for conservation, what a smart thing to do.
And the fact of the matter is in all that demonization for those images I showed you, these guys don't wake up-- and they're usually guys-- they don't wake up in the morning and say, look at the sun out today. I'm going to go out and destroy the environment. I'm going to destroy some nature. They're not doing it. Many of them, many of them that you might label because of their company's behavior and practices, you might think they're anti-environment, are just the opposite. They're naturalists. They've collected snakes. They've experienced frogs. They love to get out and hike. Companies do this damage because they're trying to make money and they don't know any better. But the individual values of their leaders are often not unlike our individual values.
So just give you a quick example. The Dow was one of the, you know-- what are we doing working with a chemical company? And I'll just give you one example that surprised us. So this is a chemical plant in Freeport, Texas, in the Houston basin area. 10,000 employees. So we're working with Dow in Brazil and we'll probably do it in China, but this is our first venture. Dow gave us money to pay for the science here. Wasn't a donation, it was to pay for the science.
The Houston air does not meet EPA standards for ozone and nitrogen oxides. There's two ways you can deal with that. The standard way is technology at the source. The other way is to restore massive amount-- this is not planting trees. This is restoring hardwood forest-- Texas red oak, hickory, ash, elm, you know, the native trees. And you could run the models, we have enough data, and say, if you do a massive restoration of the bottomland hardwood forests of the area, which is one of the most destroyed habitats, that it will take enough nitrogen oxide out and it will actually be cheaper.
So we've done that. We did it with the Dow engineers. It's just a graph. We submitted this for publication recently. But it's just a bar graph, and the green ones are the green solutions, and the gray ones are the standard technological solutions.
And they save money if they restore the hardwood forest. And they get all these other benefits-- recreation, wildlife, the community will like them. And-- you have to do this-- and if the carbon, you know California's got a carbon market now, a carbon auction. If we use the carbon auction prices from California, they could cut their costs by 70%. So if the California carbon auction approves this and EPA approves it, we're going to save them a ton of money or get a lot of forest. This is, again, it's not like planting a few trees. I don't want to give you that impression.
So it's not philanthropy. The companies are interested because they are interested in protecting their supply chain, water, biological materials, risk management. We thought this Dow company, they'd be invested in wildlife protection for hurricanes. They did the calculations. It didn't work out but they still may do it. Consumer preferences, which are real, employee happiness and social capital.
I'm not just making this up. It's a really-- I wish this got more publicized. There's a Harvard Business School study. You can't do an experiment with corporations, but you can do match samples. They did a match sample study, so they matched them by sector and size, and they said corporations have sustainability reports that show they're doing pretty well on energy and water, at cutting down the impacts, and corporations that don't do anything for sustainability, matched them, and said, what happens to your yield if you invest in them? And it turns out in that match study-- this is from it-- is about a 30% greater investor yield for the sustainable corporations than the unsustainable ones. They couldn't quite explain it. They give a lot of verbal reasons. One of their ones that I think is right is employee happiness, is that turnover-- employees like to work for companies that has these social values.
Restore, rewilding, things like that. I get to personal experiences. The Ecological Society meeting was in Pittsburgh, I think it was three summers ago or two summers ago. By sheer coincidence, my father, who grew up in Pennsylvania, is from Scranton, a coal miner initially, took us to Pittsburgh for a vacation. When he took us to Pittsburgh for a vacation it was really dirty. And it was, I don't know, it was not a pleasant place to go for vacation. The rivers were pretty foul. They've been totally cleaned up. I was amazed. I went running along the riparian zone of the three rivers and there's a bass fishing tournament there. There weren't any fish there before. So pretty amazing.
All my family vacations weren't quite that bad. They also took me to Yellowstone. But when they took me to Yellowstone, I would have never seen this. I would have never seen wolves and buffalo in decent numbers, or grizzly bears, which are now back there. You wouldn't have thought that in the '60s that those big mega predators were going to be back in Yellowstone in decent numbers, but it's happened.
Sort of an act of restoration, we've gotten really engage with oyster restoration in the Gulf. It cost a fair bit of money. Cost a million dollars a mile. And so you could look at the scale of it. But it's amazing what it does. How often can you do a project and get on Google Earth and see the impact? So this is 2007 versus 2012 where we put out those oyster reefs, and the coast is rebuilding. They trap sediment behind them. The coast is rebuilding. And these oysteries do so many things. You harvest the oysters. They're fisheries. They trap sediment. They reduce storm damage. They have all these the services. They provide livelihoods. And something that we did that we wouldn't normally do as traditional conservationists, we didn't just count the fish and the wildlife and the birds, we hired a couple of economists and analyzed the economics. Here's the sort of the scale of it.
Here's the volunteers. The other thing is we engage volunteers. I talked about the first Earth Day. I think one of the mistakes of the environmental movement has been is what I call too much inside the beltway, too much about inside powerbrokers, which is important, but not enough volunteers. We've been blown away by the volunteers we get. We can't handle them because it's a chance for people to get out and work on restoration and feel like they're doing something, and actually see something. They can come back and see the reef. And we just did another one this spring, and we had from the Air Force Base we had hundreds and hundreds of Air Force folks coming to help us. So it's amazing.
But we've done an economic analysis of the reef construction. It creates jobs and income and pays for itself in 10 years. And it's a pretty conservative analysis because we didn't include storm damage. We just included fisheries and oysters. And we didn't include any storm damage. If we figured out storm damage that it reduces, it probably would have paid for itself much faster.
So again, I argue it used to be we thought about restoration at a small scale, restore this little prairie, restore this. Restoration at a grand scale could pay off. And I think we could show it's economically valuable. It's certainly ecologically valuable. So we have the great wonders, like the pyramids and the China wall, but I would-- and we're serious about this. In the Gulf it's not impractical for us to restore 500 miles of oyster reef in the Gulf. When we do that, it'll change the Gulf.
Last thing I want to mention is put people back in nature. You know we have a program, LEAF, started by a young woman mainly in New York City where we take kids from inner cities, usually minority kids very disadvantaged. We take them to our reserves and we have them actually, we don't have them-- it's not an education program. They build fences or walkways, they collect data, they collect butterflies, they mark animals from our pre-capture. They work as field assistants. It is so successful. It is amazing. These are kids that you wouldn't expect this to happen, but our kids end up, more than almost a third of them end up being science majors in college, environmental science majors in college. Which is, it's only 6% for the nation for all sciences. And we're tracking them through Facebook and it makes an amazing difference.
But to show you some more good news, so the 2012 election, rough times economically. Everybody talks about the deficit. States are cutting everything. Could you get the public to invest in conservation? We had 13 state ballots. We won 11 out of 13 of them in November, committing $630 million to conservation in that election. Alabama is my favorite one-- Alabama is where that reef is being rebuilt, that oyster reef-- because we took a survey. We're very scientific about this. We took a survey in October 2011 and 75% of those surveyed were against the public money going to conservation. We flipped it to 75% voting for it. We got more votes than Romney in Alabama.
So how did we do it? Did we sit there and talk about biodiversity? You know, I don't like the word biodiversity here. I don't think that's a good way to-- if you'll forgive me for that. We didn't talk about biodiversity. Here's what we did-- sent out this postcard. Sent out this postcard. These are postcards, a direct mailing campaign where you just see an image on the front and the back it just says-- The initiative was called Forever Wild Trust, vote yes. Sent out this postcard. Guess what? It's never a picture of nature by itself. There's kids in it. Pretty powerful, right?
We went one step further. We had a television ad with the two football-- Alabama is a football state. Auburn and Alabama. We had the head coaches of those two football powerhouses appear in a commercial for this Forever Wild. And we were smart enough we didn't-- they had to be in the same commercial because otherwise, if we just showed one or the other, we would have really irritated the other half of the state. But you know, it worked. It really worked. That's what I mean about putting people back in conservation. Meet them on their grounds, on their territory.
And there's another interesting sort of development. Many of you may have read Last Child in the Woods, if you had that, if you have kids, E.O. Wilson's biophilia And there's many ways of expressing it, sort of this loose idea that we certainly have a long evolutionary history in nature. And as we become increasingly disconnected from it, we lose something. We as humans lose something. But it's very hard to measure what we lose. We had this sense. It makes sense. I always say, I say that we're really used to being prey and when you're walking out late at night and you have the little goosebumps at the back of your neck, that you as prey.
But there's been a few studies. They're kind of interesting. None of them are good but they're worth represent-- well, they got published in Nature so they must be OK, but if you really read them carefully, they're not that great. But they're still appealing. German university students, there was a study published in Nature where they basically took German university students and contrasted where they grew up and where they were living, and it was basically from cities or from cities or from natural areas, you know, more natural areas. And then they gave them a math test. I don't think I could get approved for this in the US. They gave them a math test. And then, while they were doing the math test, they pressured them and said, not fast enough, wrong, you know just really stressed them. And then they measured their blood chemistry and did an MRI. And it turns out that the students from the country did much better. They didn't show anywhere near as high a response to stress. The experiment design's not great, and if some of you could think about it. But still, kind of cool.
This one got-- this was on the front page of the New York Times recently. This one is also not the greatest experimental design. But they took only 12, sample size at 12, they took people, put that backpack, there's a laptop in there, and then put an EEG recorder on their head with 14 things pressed to their skull, and took readings from them while they were walking. These are actually photos from the paper, the two habitats they walked through. And they found out that there was lower frustration, much more relaxation, and higher meditation. Just much calmer, much nicer when you are walking through the country. That's Scotland, this is Edinburgh, that Scotland's idea of country.
But you know, I still think there's actually something there. And I know there's a whole generation-- I'm on a couple of committees-- there's a whole generation of PhD students that I know are starting theses to do this right, to be much more careful about the experimental design. My prediction, it's going to really turn up solid evidence for restoration, you know, restoring your cognitive function, depression, all sorts of things about mental health and so forth.
There's a childhood play study. I read this stuff as a hobby all the time. And the standard thing, it's always going to be nuanced. So the standard thing is to go out and talk to environmental leaders and say, talk to somebody like Harry and say, Harry, as a kid, what did you do? And he'll tell you he went out and collected snakes and was in nature a lot. You say, oh, being in nature is great. That's why you're what you are. But there's no control, and it's not really a proper experiment but it's a nice anecdote.
There was a study that had 51 people 18 to 35 years old who were in the environment business committed to doing stuff for the environment, and they had 10 who were absolutely hostile to the environment. They just didn't care about any environmental issues and that. And they kept asking to compare their childhood play. And it did turn out that the ones who were really were invested in basically committing some aspect of the life to the environment did play more in nature. But it's subtler than that.
This is one of the interesting things. This is a study. There's no numbers in it. You just have to read the narratives over and over. It was a different type of play in nature. It was not just being outdoors playing in nature. It was playing in nature by yourself, kind of exploring, kind of like, turning rocks over, getting in the stream. So it's a special type of play. And I thought that was pretty-- so as we do this nature stuff and we refine this thing, it's going to be nuanced. It's going to be nuanced in that way. But I love this research.
Embrace technology and ingenuity. Conservationists can sometimes feel so nostalgic. So nostalgic. Like we like-- let's go back to the good old days of the log cabin and you know, we'll go out and hunt our food and all that. I was at a meeting two weeks ago in Cambridge called Synthetic Biology. It was hosted by Wildlife Conservation Society and my organization put up some money.
And synthetic biologists, synthetic biologists, it's like genetic engineers on steroids. I don't know if you-- are there any synthetic biologists in the audience? Do you know what iGEM is? iGEM is international, what is it, genetic engineering machine. It's a competition, primarily for undergraduates, where during the summer they're given sort of [INAUDIBLE] genes and asked to design a synthetic organism to solve the problem. Pretty amazing. So sort of related to it is some of the stuff about de-extinction and bringing back the mammoth, or the passenger pigeon that the National Geographic covered. But this is pretty serious stuff.
So at this meeting there was a young kid, he's 20, 21. And he came in second place, a 10-week summer process. And he had engineered into the iGEM competition, he and his team, in E. coli-- picked E. Coli for environmental reasons as opposed to a soil bacteria-- to migrate towards soil root, the roots of grasses and plants, to then, when it gets inside the roots, release [INAUDIBLE] to stimulate root growth, which would then hold the soil better and be a strategy for reducing desertification. So this kid gets up there, gives a talk, and it was wonderful. You know the conservationists did? They immediately jumped on him and said, oh, have you heard about the mongoose and what it did when we introduced it to Hawaii and it's an invasive species, and what about Jurassic Park?
Those were OK things to say. But my first reaction was, wow. In 10 weeks, you did this? That's so cool. Now maybe you should think about it. But sometimes we can be such a downer and so cautious, we can't embrace the ingenuity of technology. We have to immediately rush to the caution. I'm not saying we don't be cautious, but I'm saying we also need to have some enthusiasm. And what really depressed me a little bit is I overheard him talking to his friends, his young friends later at the mixer later that night, and we basically turned this kid off to conservation of the environment. We turned him off. We turned him off because he said, you know, just because of the reception he received.
So there's lots of cool stuff we could do. Cell phones. This is a ScanEagle. It's one of the drones used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not one of the military ones, not one of the predatory ones, but a reconnaissance one. Amazing. It was invented by MIT engineers who liked to windsurf on the Columbia. And they quit MIT, went out there, and they were into robotics, and it was invented to track tuna for fishing boats, and then got bought out by Boeing and turned to military purposes. But now there's such opportunity in the conservation movement to use remote sensing. Enormous opportunity to see where illegal logging goes on. Tremendous. Technology we embrace.
Cell phones. Anybody who's gone to Africa, Asia, and so forth, you go there and cell phones are everywhere. It kind of shocks you. So there are more people that have access to mobile phones than electricity or clean water in the world. 6 billion people. Those numbers there are the percentage of people that text regularly-- 89% in Kenya, 96% in Indonesia, 82% in Mexico. Isn't that astonishing? More people have access to cell phones than electricity and clean water. They're everywhere. Well, cell phones could collect data. They have spatial coordinates. They can engage communities in conservation. Instead of telling kids to unplug, tell them to plug-in and use their cell phones in a creative way.
And I end up here. This painting is called Ecotopia and it reflects my very fuzzy view that I've just given you. You know, some sense of the city in the background and these pastoral hills and clean water and all that. And I realize it's not well-worked out, but at least it's a little more hopeful.
I do have some concerns. I want to end with the concerns about this direction. All this talk about technology, corporations, and dollars, we have to ask ourself, are we losing sight of our values? I got into this business, I like being outdoors. I like being an ecologist. A lot of us are-- I love natural history. I'm not a good natural historian, but I love to read about it and I like it. And a lot of us did. And here I'm talking about corporations, dollars, and technology. And yet, you know, that's not my value, my thing.
And if any of you have read this book, I would be interested in your thinking. It's one of the best books I've read in the last couple of years. It's by Michael Sandel. It's What Money Can't Buy. It's not about conservation, but I read it and it made me think about conservation. And he tells-- one of the experiments he reports is this. Israeli high school students, which all have to do community service and go out and raise money, split into two groups. One group given an inspirational speech and said, go raise money. The other group given exactly the same inspirational speech and said, go raise money, the group that got no money, no commission, raised 55% more. Raised 55% more. His phrase for that is crowding out values. When you make it all about how it's good for economics or financial rewards, you might crowd out some of these values.
He tells lots of anecdotes in this book. Another one is a Swiss town that was initially agreed to have nuclear waste stored there. And then the government said, well, that's great you're going to have it stored there. We'll compensate for you and give you something like $5,000 a year for that. That totally changed their mind. Then they didn't want it. Crowding out values.
So it makes me think. And I think the answer to Sandel's book, which I view as a really thoughtful book that is sort of a challenge to some of the messages I've been delivering, is that we could have more than one value. We don't have to have just one value. We could have multiple values. So in particular, we could have the value of we want nature, and we can have the value that we want economic growth. They're not mutually exclusive. We can at both values.
And as evidence for that, I have all of the Natural Capital Project, which all these stars represent sites where we use this type of reasoning. We try to advance conservation by calculating the economic benefits and the jobs. In no case have we, even when we hire economists-- we've been a sort of an employment agency for young PhDs in economics to do economic analysis of all these alternatives. In no case have we been asked to reduce it to a bottom line dollar. 14 out of 14. We calculate them. We've never been asked. But the fact that we will calculate them is basically us going in to a community or a country like Mongolia, and it's basically us saying, our value is protecting nature, but we respect your value of economic growth and we'll help give you some numbers on that. So you could have more than one value.
You may remember this quote from Romney, his acceptance speech. So President Obama promised to slow the rise of the ocean and heal the planet. Slow the rise of the ocean and heal the planet. And he ended it with, my promise is to help you and your family. Well, you know, healing a planet, I'm not sure that's bad for you and your family. But I'm not criticizing Romney because he got away with that. You know, that crowd accepted that message. I'm criticizing the conservation movement for not making it clear, not making it clear that protecting nature is good for your family and you. And it could help you. We haven't made that clear. We haven't provided the evidence, the data, the message. We've been too wrapped up in our own value of just let's do it. So I blame it on us.
And ending with Earth Day. That original Earth Day, that original Earth Day, very first one, Congress took the day off and 2/3 of Congress spoke at an Earth Day event. 2/3 of Congress spoke at an Earth Day event in 1970, that Earth Day. And at that stage people, you know, there was broad base. We've lost that. We've totally lost that broad base and we have to go back to it.
So what I've tried to argue for here is look, none of us-- and there are a lot of you in this room I know are committed to the environment and conservation-- but sometimes I feel like we've accepted being in the position of managing the decline of the planet. We've accepted. We tell these horrible doom stories and we depress each other. In that synthetic biology thing, the molecular biologists we're just talking about how depressing we were, just like my daughter has.
But I don't want to manage the decline of the planet. I don't want to work, you know, 60, 70-hour weeks to manage the decline of the planet. We do a lot better. We could vision a pretty ambitious future. But are we going to do that? We've got to rethink a lot of stuff. We've got to do entirely new approaches. We need new alliances. That's my corporations. We can invest a lot in restoration. Not paltry little restoration projects, massive ones. And we have to reconnect the whole younger generation in nature. And I'll end there and be happy to take questions. Thanks.
HARRY GREENE: Peter, I got a prepared question. Thanks for a fantastic talk. We're going to open it up to the audience in just a second. We'll have microphones and so forth. But I wanted to ask you first since we're sitting on a college campus, what would you say to the undergraduate who's majoring biology or an environmental science type major and really wants to make a difference. I mean, you can sort of draw these conclusions from your talk, but what do you wish they'd go out and do in terms of a career?
PETER KAREIVA: Well, I mean, I actually think there's so many pathways to make a difference for conservation. You've got to choose when to place your talent. Education is a big one, and education and an aspiring-- you know, I would like somebody to help us figure out how to scale up this LEAF program. The LEAF program is these high school kids from New York City and now a dozen other cities where they go out and they work on our reserves. So really some energy in that.
I don't like the word marketing and communication because people think it's cheap, but I think it's important. We recognized that we weren't connecting that much and we hired a vice president of marketing. Guess where he worked before? Wrestling Federation. He promoted wrestling. And he's brought such a fresh view, instead of talking the normal way.
Business. Do you know how many jobs, how many corporations hire kids with the college years or environmental science degrees because they have some sustainability section? You might think, I don't want to go work for business. When I work with these companies, I come across people who have been persuasive in their businesses, and they become our allies from within the companies. So I think there's so many different ways to do it, to play to your talents.
But it's not just about-- for sure you could come work for the Nature Conservancy and that would be good. And you can do the traditional conservation things. But think about the other stuff. Consumer preference, what consumers, you know, consumer choices will make a difference. You can figure out how to influence consumer choices. It's a big deal. Making movies. We can make-- you know, you're like a rock star.
HARRY GREENE: OK, I'm going to ask one more question of Peter, and then I'm going to open it up. Peter, you sort of, I won't say you pooh-poohed biodiversity, but you chided me slightly. So I'm just going to tell you I am a total snake nerd, nature loving guy since I was a little boy. If you and I both sat down and privately wrote down what we wish the world would be like in 100 years, how different do you think our two visions would be?
PETER KAREIVA: You know, I mean, you already know as we talked about this over beer that it would be exactly the same.
HARRY GREENE: That's right. I think so, too.
PETER KAREIVA: It would be at exactly the same. When I say I pooh-pooh biodiversity it's because I just, it's almost like a label. It sounds to new numerical. I like variety. I like seeing different things. Yeah, same same things you do.
HARRY GREENE: But you think we'd have the same thing?
PETER KAREIVA: We'd have exactly the same thing.
HARRY GREENE: I think it would be, too. So do we have some questions from the audience? And by the way, we want short, crisp questions so that Peter can talk, not extemporaneous sermons. So go for it. I've been told to be brutal about that.
SPEAKER 1: OK, so-- sorry I was handed a mic.
HARRY GREENE: You've got a phone-- you've got a mic? Go.
SPEAKER 1: All right, so with this, part of the feeling down about conservation, just from my perspective, is that a lot of what you've been speaking about are massive projects that require lots of coordination and effort, and the flip side of that is that individual effort looks like it's very small and can't do very much. Therefore, what would you suggest that we as individual people can do to try to help out in this?
PETER KAREIVA: So I actually totally disagree with that. I've seen so many-- let me tell you about that LEAF program. That LEAF program was started by a young woman whose job at the Nature Conservancy was to support our board. So we have state boards of trustees. Her job was the most menial thing possible. She had to prepare the notebooks, the really glossy notebooks for the board when they got together and support the meeting. She grew up in South Carolina. She liked nature. And she just created this as one person by sheer energy. On that board she got to know some Goldman Sachs guys, and so forth that she persuaded them to start funding it. And eventually she got Toyota to fund it. So I actually-- so individual people with good ideas could do things. Collective independent actions.
Social media matter now a lot. I mean, I know that's a cliche, but you can see the energy spread in certain communities. Another thing is one of the failings I think of the conservation environmental movement is, you know, like the real plus, it's almost just, it's almost like it's just the opposite of what you said. The Kyoto treaty, these big international agreements, they fell apart. Where did the international, the notion of an international agreement on climate change go? Where's the action on climate change right now? Chicago. Boston. The Northeast. California. Its regional and local.
So it's almost like we tried to do everything with international agreements. There's some very good political scientists that write on this and say they could have never worked. It was a mistake for us to think that they could work. And now the action is much more local and regional, where you as an individual can make a difference. You couldn't have made a difference to Kyoto or to Rio 20. So I think we're seeing a move back towards a lot more grassroots organizations like the Nature Conservancy, or not just us, Environmental Defense Fund, Audubon. What we could do is sort of help facilitate it, you know, instead of just paying attention to the international stuff. I think just the opposite.
HARRY GREENE: Here's a hand up down here.
SPEAKER 2: As a specific example, what do you recommend doing about restoring the Gulf of Mexico?
PETER KAREIVA: Well, so you probably know, since you asked that, you probably know something about the Gulf. People don't ask questions like that unless they know. So I think there's essentially two things. First of all, restore the reefs. I mean, restoring these oyster reefs will do a lot of good, but they won't solve the dead zone problem. They won't solve the runoff from the Mississippi River, in terms of all the excess nutrients and so forth.
So we have a project that we call, we do it with a lot of people, called the Great Rivers Project, of which Mississippi is one. And what we try to do is reduce the nutrient input to the Mississippi River. We try to do that at two scales. One is actually changing farmer behavior through best practices, and as ways of farming that can cut down on the nitrogen load. And the other one is that the federal policy level, this is true around the world, there are a lot of agricultural subsidies, and even some of them that are aimed at environment, but they're not informed by science. They're not targeted. So they might be called a soil conservation program and you're given a subsidy to do something with your farmland, but in point of fact, because of the hydrology and soil, nothing you did would make a difference to the Mississippi. But there are other pieces of farm that I would make a huge difference.
So I think the farm bill is one tool, but making the farm bill smarter, and then farmer behavior would be another one. And then the oyster reefs. And we'll try to do all three of those things with varying degrees of success.
HARRY GREENE: How about the man with the vest? You've had your hand up a couple of times. Would you like a mic?
SPEAKER 3: Well, early in the talk you mentioned, well, sort of looked at population growth and implied in a way that dropping fertility is a good thing. But how do you think that the future population growth or the lack thereof of is going to dial into the Nature Conservancy and the environmental program as a whole?
PETER KAREIVA: We haven't, there's no question that countries and-- we haven't figured out what it's going to mean having declining populations. You know, it's got a pretty huge social burden on because of the workforce and retirement. As you know, in the US I think it's projected to have 15 million people with Alzheimer's by 2030. We don't know how to deal with that. So the aging population is going to create issues, not for the environment, for society and nations and economic growth.
What that means for the conservation movement, my own personal ideas, I get written a lot of letters by people who retire and say they retire and now they're interested in doing something related to the environment or conservation. I think just like right now we're investing in the LEAF program, I'd like TNC to say, OK, you're retiring, we've got something for you to do. And I actually think NGOs and volunteer organizations could harness that in a serious way. They don't do that now. They don't have-- we have kids programs. We have school programs. We don't have retire programs. I actually think we could-- you would believe the numbers of letters I get for people wanting to do something when they retire. And so that would be one way to do it.
HARRY GREENE: There's somebody over here. Would you like a mic?
SPEAKER 4: You covered a lot of topics that I'd love to ask about, but there's no time of course. The one that I'd like to focus on is a kind of tension that I felt, and I'm not sure that's a-- I don't think it's a bad thing. But I would like it if you could address it a little bit more. It's this tension between what I'll call intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. So at the beginning of the talk, you spoke about how there was a lot of energy, not that much organization in the environmental movement of the '70s at the beginning of Earth Day, and how we're spending a lot of money on environmental concerns now and we're not getting nearly the bang for the buck.
You also talk towards the end of the lecture about a campaign using, say, two-pronged postcards that created an association in people's minds between the welfare of their children and the cleanness of their water, and so forth. And you talked about this idea of crowding out values. And those studies I think have been going on in many contexts for a long time where when you offer people money or you offer them some external reward, they don't seem to be as strongly motivated as if they just value the thing in and of itself.
And so part of the tension that I feel is your focus and your critique of the history of environmentalism up till now, where it doesn't really take this pragmatic approach of let's meet people where they live, let's do that and show them how environmental values can be part of their smaller picture rather than trying hard and sort of being inefficient at making their picture bigger-- can we do both? Is there a natural tension there? Or am I just missing a key piece of the puzzle?
PETER KAREIVA: So I think there is a natural tension there. My answer is that, my personal answer, but maybe it's because I'm too mindlessly optimistic, is that we could do both. I think the tension exists because some people think we can't do both. So you have me who thinks you can do both, and you have another sector, and neither of us has enough evidence to know which is true, who thinks that by trying to do both we'll totally lose the value driven thing. And within the conservation dialogue, there is that tension.
It will be, you know, I wish I could figure some way to make it sound-- I just have so much experience internationally, not as much US, with these projects with the natural capital that tell me we can do both. I mean they tell me that the woman who is the head of our Mongolia program, one of the first members of Parliament, comes from a herder background. She wants mining in her country. She has to have it for economic development. But she also really, really cares about the natural system. And so she has those two values, and she in her own head is going to find a way to do both.
HARRY GREENE: Actually, let me interrupt and just put a little finer point on what you asked. My impression is that this tension is mainly a US thing, and that in most other countries of the world this hasn't been seen as a conflict. What do you think?
PETER KAREIVA: I think that's exactly right. So I think you wouldn't have these discussions in Mongolia, Latin America, or Africa. You wouldn't be having these discussions. This is very, very much--
HARRY GREENE: I don't even think you have them as much in Europe.
PETER KAREIVA: Yeah, I don't know Europe.
HARRY GREENE: Yeah, OK. More questions. Way back there.
SPEAKER 5: Yeah, you mentioned that CEOs don't get up in the morning and say, I want to devastate the environment today. But they do get up in the morning and say, I want to make money today. One of the corporations that you identified on the slide there was Rio Tinto and they've got a terrible record of mining all over the world. And I kind of would like to in a very practical way, how do you think Nature Conservancy would work with them on the pebble mine in Alaska?
PETER KAREIVA: So we have-- and I'll deal with another mining question-- we have a wild strategy for the pebble mine, and I can't talk about it. We recognize the pebble mine is not a good mine because of the salmon run there. And we have something but it's just at an early stage. But they are a good company to bring up. So we get-- I say go for it.
So we purposely go for global corporations. And we go for global corporations because they're the most susceptible to social capital and pressure in many ways because they-- one of the things they wanted to do with our science, one of the first things we did for these tech companies was made a biodiversity map of where the really important conservation areas were. And they just actually wanted to know that and overlay it with their opportunities so they could avoid it. So in many cases, if given a choice, they're not going to go to a damaging area.
So we work with the global corporations for that reason. We work with Rio Tinto in Mongolia with some success. How did we do it? There's almost always some government regulation. So I shouldn't say that it's just, there's almost always some government-- well, even that Texas example there's air quality regulation. There's almost always some government regulation, and it's basically striking a balance and saying, look, you want to be a market leader, you want to get ahead of the system, we'll help you, we'll give you the science and help you, we'll help create rational regulation that you can live with if you, when we go to the Mongolian government, don't raise a big stink and say, well, we could live with it and you say that. So it's a mixture.
It's a really kind of delicate thing of there's government regulation, so that they know they're eventually going to have to do it. It's competition. It's competition with other mining companies so that they then think by behaving in this way, they'll get out a little bit of an edge on them, and that's their spirit, what they do it. What that means is for a global corporation, you don't change its behavior everywhere. You do it one country at a time. So you don't go, you can't go to Rio Tinto and say-- because it's very specific-- and say, you know, this is how you're going to operate everywhere. You go into a specific country where there's some regulations or some threats and there's some competition you could specify, and say, this is how we can make it work for you. So it's not that easy.
Our other idea-- this is crazy, I can't talk about this one. The Securities and Exchange Commission, the annual reports that companies have to do for that, and they have to report things like labor disputes, they have to report all these things that represent assets and risk to investment, potential investors. I would like to have as part of that environmental risk. In a serious way, not just carbon emissions. They report carbon emissions now. But serious environmental risks. Because I think if you got that part of the FCC reporting and you got it on Bloomberg software, so Bloomberg analytics tracked that, then we have a way into those companies in a systemic way that's better than a company by company way. Now that's a dream, but that's what I'd like to do.
HARRY GREENE: Let's have somebody else down here. Ben. I'll call on somebody I know. He needs a microphone.
SPEAKER 6: I may just be asking you to wave your hands around, but do you think that you can speak to the psychology that has led to the culture within the conservation movement that sort of perceived as a self-righteous, uptight, sort of stewardship of the Earth, and how as a group we can break out of that.
PETER KAREIVA: Yeah, I don't know.
You know, it's just conservation. It happens with, you know, because people [INAUDIBLE], they believe you're doing good. I hate arguments that get reduced to moral superiority, and I'm nervous about any moral superiority argument for any faction.
HARRY GREENE: Let's, right there. That checkered-- yeah.
SPEAKER 7: I'd like to elaborate a little more about the pebble mine because I recently saw a documentary in Ithaca about that at the Environmental Film Festival. It's pretty serious. Two companies are planning that mine. A Canadian company and South African company is going to destroy the biggest salmon run in the world. They're mining for copper and for gold. Serious stuff. And the exploratory stuff they're already doing, since you alluded to that, is already wiping out what's called the red salmon, and they haven't even begun to mine yet. I mean, it hasn't been approved.
So as consumers, people who eat salmon, I as well eat salmon-- Wegmans, for example, has been put in a call to stop the mine from happening-- as consumers, we have a lot of power. Don't forget that. But this mine is going to destroy the biggest salmon run in the world, as well as indigenous populations. And also, it's in Alaska, which is the US. OK? It's not Europe. It's not another place. It's the US. And it's a shame if we allow this to happen, which brings to our issue of consumption.
But one last thought is when I see young people texting while they're driving and always focusing on a little device in their hand, that to me does not seem hopeful. Not to mention, we don't know the verdict yet whether cell phones cause cancer or not, and as well as a wireless industry. Thank you.
HARRY GREENE: OK. Have a question? How about right there? Yes, thanks.
SPEAKER 8: I just had a question that I feel like you were gingerly pondering around this area, but I was--
HARRY GREENE: We need some power.
SPEAKER 8: Oh, that's how it goes, OK. Well, I was just wondering what approach you would take to problems that are going, like in Latin America where there are people, for example, in the tropical forest, like rubber tappers, that, like in the case of Chico Mendes, and when people stand up for the environment when they [INAUDIBLE] and they can't really make much. Like they only have one or two people to be able to stand up, or there's just so much that goes against them that in the end they're silenced. Like also in Mexico with the [INAUDIBLE] in Chiapas, they went out when people can't really speak out and stand out for the natural areas around them. I was just wondering what kind of approach you would take to help in those kinds of situations because you're not, like, in the United States or more developed countries where we can actually have more of an impact, a straight impact into people's minds.
PETER KAREIVA: So, I mean, there's really two elements to that question. One is about power and how do you help the powerless have some control over their environment. That's the indigenous. And the other issue is sort of goverments and corruption. Because actually, Brazil has some pretty good, as an example, has some pretty good laws on the books. It's a matter of enforcement. And so you have to ask, how do you create pressures for enforcement?
One of our ways of working with, as an example, working with Cargill and trying to get Cargill to only buy soybean, you know, that has been produced without any deforestation or without any bad practices. They're not there yet, but it's sourcing. It's usually the consumer choice and sourcing that try to do it.
The other way is to directly-- we have what we call an indigenous strategy, and it's actually having schools in indigenous communities to try to give them the capacity to have more control over some of these decisions. A lot of it is there might be laws and legal opportunities to them, but they're so complicated. And they don't have lawyers, and they don't have any avenues for doing it, so we do capacity building to try to help them do it. So one is going directly to the company, and the other one is working with the indigenous communities.
And if you go to our website we have sort of an indigenous people strategy. We're not doing it around the world because we're spread pretty thin. Our two places that we're doing it is Brazil and Australia. So not in other countries because it takes a lot of commitment.
HARRY GREENE: Let's have one last question from the woman in green over here, and then I think we're going to give Peter a rest.
SPEAKER 9: You seem to give lots of support to grassroots organizing at the local and the state level. And in this area we have very strong local grassroots organizing. In this, right at the moment, it's mostly around fracking. And we have not seen any kind of regulation that's been respected in our neighbor state of Pennsylvania, and we're not seeing adequate regulation in our own state.
So I would like to know from the Nature Conservancy whether your policy of working with corporations would undermine certain kinds of grassroots, you know, like would you work with a corporation that was not adequately, you know, that was doing this gas drilling with hydrofracking, which we are absolutely convinced cannot be done safely the way they are doing it. And they don't respect regulation. So, you know, I understand that the Nature Conservancy would consider going the way of the Environmental Defense Fund, which is agreeing to regulatory measures with the companies, but it undermines the grassroots efforts that people are involved in. So the question is really do you find that that is contradictory and really hurtful of environmental grassroots organizing?
PETER KAREIVA: So I mean that might be a particular. So our particular stand on fracking is that it does need to be regulated.
SPEAKER 9: [INAUDIBLE]
PETER KAREIVA: So the state regulations are not in good order. There's no question about that. So we actually advocate improving the regulations. The environmental community is split on fracking. It's not that clear a situation. I mean, I wouldn't paint it as so black and white. The situation with fracking is that in certain geologies, in certain structures, in certain ways it's done, it's bad for the environment. And in other situations, it can be done safely. It is not regulated now to the level at which you could insist upon that being done. So it's not regulated in a consistent way that that's the way it plays out. So we actually lobby for good regulations. But, you know, when you do the calculations, it's better than coal.
And then there's another scientific debate about methane and fracking, for which there is data yet to come out. And that gets so nuanced. If you do a time scale, if you do it over 20 years, it comes out one answer, if you do it over 100 years, it comes out another answer, if you do it over 500 years, it comes out another answer. We could talk about it offline, but it's one of those issues of technology and energy that I don't think has as easy an answer as the media has depicted it, or Bill McKibben or a lot of people have depicted it. I think there's subtleties there. All that we do is we actually are in favor of regulation.
And in terms of when we work with companies, we have a sort of best practices and one of the criteria is if the company is doing really bad things, we don't work with them. But we haven't come out and said we're anti-fracking. We have not come out and said that. We have not come out and said that we're absolutely anti-fracking.
HARRY GREENE: OK, on that note in view of the hour, I want to thank the Iscol family again for sponsoring these lectures and Peter for a wonderful talk.
SPEAKER 10: This has been a production of Cornell University, on the web at cornell.edu.
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On the inaugural Earth Day 43 years ago, 12,000 events were held around the country. Two-thirds of Congress spoke at an Earth Day ceremony, and several environmental acts were born. Today, politicians are directing dollars away from conservation efforts, environmentalists are seen as "preachy," and the environment and economic development are frequently in conflict.
So said The Nature Conservancy's chief scientist, Peter Kareiva, Ph.D. '81, during his Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture, April 22, 2013.
Kareiva stressed that supporting large-scale restoration projects, collaborating with corporations and enlisting the energies of the younger generation could change the fate of our planet. Conservationists must "put people back in nature" by pointing out that what's good for the environment is good for humans, and that economic growth and environmental health are linked, he added.
The annual Iscol lecture, presented by the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, brings prominent leaders to campus to discuss crucial environmental issues.