Need for a Paradigm Shift from Capacity Building to Empathy Enhancement for Successful Conservation Efforts
A lot has been said about and invested to build and enhance human capacity for successful biodiversity conservation. However, with consistently fading ground realities, it does not require high intellect to gauge utility of these investments. It leads to think, whether capacity enhancement is the right goal.
I would prefer to replace 'capacity building' with 'empathy enhancement'. The phrase 'capacity for conservation' implies an acquired attribute. Even with the most massive effort, acquired attributes will be gained by an insignificant number of people, compared to the population whose daily activities cumulatively erodes natural wealth. It is important to realize that most of these people do not have a viable and long-term alternative in front of them. Hence investments made to educate to appreciate and alter human behavior into a sustainable trajectory will either be 'partially' successful or re-emerge as some other issue. In most cases, people will not welcome 'new-issues', but would accommodate 'older' ones, as they are used to it since childhood.
However, if efforts are made to build empathy towards something, chances are that it will get protected. Ability to communicate with, or understand signals of other organisms is the best way to instill empathy towards it. Human behavior to domesticated animals and pets are classic cases that exemplifies the above statement. For this we need to understand what plants and animals try to convey through their flowers and sound.
Will you cut down a tree that speak with you?