Grassroots Conservation; Getting to the Root of the Problem?

I would not consider myself a radical greenie, although maybe one day I might like to be. I have not chained myself to a tree, and I still have a car. However, I try not to consume palm oil, and I am worried about the Great Barrier Reef disappearing and polar ice caps melting among other things. So when considering that humans are currently causing the sixth mass extinction of biodiversity, I thought about how my efforts pale in comparison. This reminded me of a quote by Tom McMillian which I find to be true; “For 200 years we’ve been conquering Nature. Now we’re beating it to death”.

This is the last year of my Resource Environmental Science degree at ANU, and to be honest sometimes the impact of climate change can be a daunting problem. I often wondered how can I help or even make an impact? But I have since realized that it is not just the big policies and government decisions that make a difference; bottom up approaches are vital as well.   In February, I signed up for a class that required me to engage in work experience within the biodiversity sector. So I decided that I wanted to get involved in a grassroots conservation project.

So you may ask what are Grassroots? And, No I’m not taking about the roots of grass; instead I am referring to “The grassroots: the ordinary people in a society or an organization, especially a political party” (Cambridge Dictionaries, 2014). Therefore, grassroots conservation is community-based conservation.  It involves sustainable development, building capacity, is cost efficient, is inclusive and allows multiple projects to be conducted at any one time. Grassroots conservation is vital; “today, it is nearly impossible to protect natural resources without community participation” (Horwich et al 2011).

Grassroots conservation often needs support of private, local government and international government. It may not go far enough in challenging lifestyles of consumption, the way in which we treat the environment as an infinite resource or addresses multiple key aspects of overarching problems within society. But hey, it minimizes environmental impacts and restores degraded ecosystems.

A young sampling being planted to aid in the restoration of the Yellow-box Grassy Woodland

A young sampling being planted to aid in the restoration of the Yellow-box Grassy Woodland

Friends of Mount Majura is a grassroots conservation project that is made up of a small group of people who meet every Friday at the Mount Majura nature reserve east of The Fair, North Watson Canberra . After meeting the leader of Friends of Mount Majura; Waltraud; a bright, lovely chatty lady; my concerns about lacking experience melted away. All the volunteers I have met from this group have been warm, polite, and in no way judgemental or smug. Various activities I have been involved in include; woody weed spraying, planting of trees, and spreading woody debris to prevent kangaroos from eating young samplings. These and other various activities aid in the restoration of the endangered Yellow Box-Red Gum Grassy Woodland present in the area.  

Hammering in a stake to stop the guard from swaying, while smiling for the camera.

Hammering in a stake to stop the guard from swaying, while smiling for the camera.

Volunteering with Friends of Mount Majura has compounded in my mind that grassroots projects are just as essential as high-level policy development. So I hope I have shed some light on how to make a positive contribution to your earth, and maybe even get yourself some good karma.

By Olivia Morley u5179965

Cambridge Dictionaries (2014). “Grassroots”. Cambridge Online Dictionaries. Last accessed 8/05/2014  

Horwich, R., Lyon, J., & Bose, A. (2011). What Belize can teach us about grassroots conservation. Solutions. May–June, 51-58

About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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1 Response to Grassroots Conservation; Getting to the Root of the Problem?

  1. Volunteers contribute so much to the conservation gains we all enjoy in our public spaces. Phil

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