Written by Kathleen Godfrey
Connecting Conservation is an initiative conceived of and powered by a four person team of current and former McGill University students coming from different academic and life experience backgrounds, and who have varied skill sets and passions. That being said, we all think about and act toward some kind of ‘conservation’ goal in our activism work, academic work, or personal side-projects.
In May 2018, we four met on the steps of the Redpath Museum at McGill University and had a conversation about our experiences as students focused on ‘conservation’ in the natural and social science disciplines. What emerged was a realization of how physically and infrastructurally separated the Arts and Sciences faculties, departments, labs, and offices are, but more importantly how the ideas generated within them are rarely shared or taught across the disciplinary boundaries. This has obvious effects not only on how different knowledges are ordered in some made up hierarchy (e.g. biological quantifiable knowledge is historically more valuable than indigenous or local perceptions of environmental change that might emerge through a social science approach) in the minds of students, but also how students perceive of conservation challenges and avenues of inquiry or action that might contribute to positive collective impact or some kind of solution. We conceive of these disciplinary ‘knowledge silos’, and the lack of connection or communication between them, as opportunities not challenges.
Through Connecting Conservation, our mission is to engage a diverse audience and community to discuss and think about topics related to sustainability, biological preservation, education, knowledge silos, activism, cultural conservation, and so much more to promote interdisciplinary dialogue. It is one thing to be following all the ‘right’ people on Twitter or get Google to send you articles related to a specified keyword daily, it is another to contribute to and engage with a boundary-spanning audience and community that is committed, in the broadest sense, to ‘conservation’. Moreover, in grounding the conservation conversation on core values of interdisciplinarity, accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity, we are looking beyond the walls of academia to the vast knowledges and experiences of people who are ‘doing the work’.
This work – of getting a project like Connecting Conservation off the ground – is hard. We don’t have big names, oft-cited papers, or any kind of blue print that tells us how to build a community of thought and exchange. It begs the question: “Where to begin?”
The passion behind, and realization of this platform’s mission is all about people. It’s about storytelling; getting that idea that’s been bouncing around your brain written down and out into the world; it’s about feelings and thoughts; it’s about emerging science; it’s ultimately about connecting.
Opportunities to connect with and contribute to Connecting Conservation can take a variety of forms, whether you’d like to be a guest on our podcast (forthcoming – stay tuned!), be interviewed by us, send in a piece of writing between 500 and 1500 words, or contribute a photo or photos with a text description.
If you’re reading this, then that probably means we would love to hear from you. It also probably means that we would love support in the form of a Facebook page share, the sending of a link, sharing resources with us, or a comment on the articles that we publish. We’re just four young people, screenshotting our Skype check ins, making a lot of puns, reaching out to our networks, and hoping that we’re not the only ones thinking about these things.
I’m fairly positive that we aren’t.