Update: 2017

Welcome back to you, and to me! I started this blog in 2011 and kept it fairly active until sometime in 2013, when other things took priority. It’s 2017 and I feel inspired to write again, so I’ve re-opened Learning Conservation.

A few words about where this blog has come from and where it’s heading. It was first called “At the frontier” and focused purely on conservation. While I studied for a masters in Conservation Leadership in 2010-2011 I changed the name to Learning Conservation. And in 2012 while I travelled across Asia by bike with my now-husband (then friend) I wrote about environmental issues and some travel.

Near the end of the trip I wrote a post about what I called “Responsible happiness“. That post seemed to resonate with my readers, and since then I have wanted to write about everything I learn because what you learn in the process of being human can all be applied to how you do conservation.

So from now on I hope to write both about things I learn for my conservation job, and about things I learn about being a human being.

 

Learning for conservation

Have you heard of MOOCs? It means Massive Open Online Courses, which are pretty much just that – plus from what I have seen they are also free. I am now taking one through Coursera.org called Social Psychology, hoping that I’ll learn more about why people and groups think and behave the way they do. I’ve always felt that one of the biggest challenges in conservation is to understand and change people’s motivations and behaviours. 

This course is Coursera’s largest to date, with 230,000 students currently registered! To take part, you sign up on the website for free, and watch the video lectures and read the assigned material at your own pace each week – the course is time-bound which is a useful motivator. Each week you are expected to complete a homework assignment. Homework is peer-assessed, so you also review at least five assignments from others in the class. The course is taught by a professor at Wesleyan University who, along with the five teaching assistants, has done an amazing job putting together clear and professional video lectures. 

It’s not too late to sign up, so if you have any interest in how people think about, relate to and influence each other, give it a try! 

 

“Conservation must be done differently!”

When you keep finding yourself reading articles on the same idea you start to realize it might be an issue on your mind. Just the other day I was thinking to myself, wow everyone seems to be talking about how we need new ways of doing conservation.

For example, Jem Bendell talks about the spirit of adventure that we need to tackle conservation and sustainability in a new way. Hilary Rosner on Ensia.com examines whether conservation is extinct ( ! ) and says we need a new ‘map for conservation’ but at least we all agree about that. 

And then it hit me that all these articles are popping up because that’s what I’m looking for. Currently at a transtion point with a background in species conservation, a masters in conservation leadership, and a year’s worth of spirited adventure, a new way of Julie doing conservation is definitely on my mind.

So where will it be? In the heart of a conservation organisation? In an economic one? In a company working on improving their sustainability practices? Please share links in the comments below to any other articles that may be providing you inspiration on new paradigms for conservation.

 

Scarred skies

The sky in Spain
The sky in Spain

I’d been away from Europe for nearly a year and in all that time I never saw a sky like this. Usually hearing or seeing just one plane overhead was enough to cause us to look up and comment.
I guess noticing this kind of sky-scape is what happens when you’ve been outside your own bubble for a while.

Country Report: China

Giant Panda Bear, Chengdu Panda Center
Giant Panda Bear, Chengdu Panda Center

A conservationist-on-wheels’ take on China
What do you think of when you think of China? The Great Wall, panda bears and 16,000 plants that exist in no other place on earth?

Environmental catastrophe with smoke-filled skies? Mysterious dictatorship and upcoming superpower? One BILLION people?

Adam sharing the road with Chinese trucks
Adam sharing the road with Chinese trucks

I spent two months there and rode over 2,200km but even so only managed to cross two out of 33 provinces. The sheer size of it means that the small transect I saw hardly gives me any fair claim to having a valid conservation perspective on the place.

What I saw (and heard and smelled)

The minute I stepped into China the sounds, the lights, the smells, everything about it was screaming: we are modern! We are commercial! It had capitalism painted all over it. A land of contrasts: some brand new highways had hardly any cars on them and some old roads were packed with trucks racing around full of workers and building supplies.

Beautifully smooth new highway along a hydroelectric dam reservoir - and no cars!
Beautifully smooth new highway along a hydroelectric dam reservoir – and no cars!

In one visually pretty valley the air was filled with an undescribably sickening smell. This was even worse than the pollution I had heard about. I learned that there can be no beauty if the sensory experiences of it are not in harmony.

We climbed up this pretty valley as fast as we could because it smelled really bad.
We climbed up this pretty valley as fast as we could because it smelled really bad.
Lovely scenery, terrible smell of pollution.
Lovely scenery, terrible smell of pollution.

And the noise! Oh, the noise. Honking, honking, screeching, shouting, spitting! Noise noise noise noise!

Making our way through a traffic jam in a small village in southern Yunnan province on market day.
Making our way through a traffic jam in a small village in southern Yunnan province on market day.

Fortunately, the majority of our time was spent in rural areas which were completely different. There were the endless fields of small tidy rectangles of vegetables, all tended by human hands – hardly a machine or work animal in sight.

Neat and tidy farming on the road between Dali and Shaxi, Yunnan Province.
Neat and tidy farming on the road between Dali and Shaxi, Yunnan Province.
In southern Yunnan province you certainly can't accuse the Chinese of being lazy!
In southern Yunnan province you certainly can’t accuse the Chinese of being lazy!
It was fun biking through piles of hay that they raked into the road for vehicles to crunch up.
It was fun biking through piles of hay that they raked into the road for vehicles to crunch up.

And along one busy road we saw more birds in one tree than we had in all of southeast Asia. In the remote areas the birdlife was even more wonderful: enormous vultures, buzzards, hoopoes, a blood pheasant and a white-eared rosefinch.

We'd been tracking the large, shy, ground-running Blood Pheasant around our campsite a few nights before we saw this photo of one in some monks' house where we were having breakfast. Near Xiahe, south of Litang, western Sichuan Province.
We’d been tracking the large, shy, ground-running Blood Pheasant around our campsite a few nights before we saw this photo of one in some monks’ house where we were having breakfast. Near Xiahe, south of Litang, western Sichuan Province.

All countries have their ugly industrial areas, uninteresting agricultural lands and over-crowded tourist attractions (though the Chinese definitely win the competition for making their ancient World Heritage cities most like Disneyland). Nonetheless, it was a particularly sweet reward once we’d pedalled through all of that to get to the Tibetan plateau.

This is the far eastern edge of that huge white blob on your map, the roof of the world, Shangri-La, the Tibet of your dreams and more, and it is fantastic. We spent almost two weeks riding above 4,000m, crossing high mountains passes, across boulder-strewn plateaus, past Tibetans  spinning their prayer wheels and through bird-filled forests. This part of China is still sparsely populated, reasonably forested, not too polluted and simply awe-inspiring.

Beautiful place, terrible road: can there be any harmony? Between Shangri-La and Litang in Southwest Sichuan Province.
Beautiful place, terrible road: can there be any harmony? Between Shangri-La and Litang in Southwest Sichuan Province.
View from a pass in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Park, northwest corner of Yunnan Province (just southeast of Tiger Leaping Gorge)
View from a pass in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Park, northwest corner of Yunnan Province (just southeast of Tiger Leaping Gorge)
Tibetan Buddhist monastery, south of Litang, western Sichuan Province.
Tibetan Buddhist monastery, south of Litang, western Sichuan Province.
Bikes going up, yaks coming down. Western Sichuan Province.
Bikes going up, yaks coming down. Western Sichuan Province.

So what did I think of China?

I must admit that a combination of our inward struggles and the difficulty of all modes of communication – Chinese don’t do charades – made it very difficult to make connections, and as such to get more than a superficial understanding of this infamous place. It seemed that each time I thought I would explode with frustration an exceptionally nice Chinese person would turn up out of nowhere and create one of those special moments. In the same day that our jeep driver made me so mad I yelled at him, a man on a scooter spent one hour escorting us around Chengdu to help us find our hostel. When we finally got there he zipped off barely giving us a chance to yell thanks and xie xie ni!

From a conservation perspective, parts of China were terrifyingly polluted, others were magnificently huge and wild. As a bike-tourer, China certainly gave me some of my most fizzing highs of the trip and my most frustrating lows. Adam put it well on his blog, Chinese Mind Games – and this much I know is true: China is very very different from anywhere else I’ve been.

See more of China through my huge set of photos and captions – though to experience the smells and sounds you’ll have to cycle it yourself!

Getting inspired by reality: lessons rolling by in Laos

My bike and the Laos mountains
My bike and the Laos mountains

A brief overview of my experience biking across Laos and a link to the photos. 

After Cambodia (read my blog report about it here), we rode from south to north across Laos. The highlight was a week of fantastic climbing at a small climber’s paradise of bungalows nestled at the foot of some karst peaks near Thakhek. And finally, after months of almost entirely flat biking we reached mountains in northern Laos. One night as we stumbled into a guesthouse on wobbly legs after a particularly long climb (about 26km of steep uphill) we noticed two other touring bikes and an older American couple popped around the corner. In chipper voices they explained that if you just go into the kitchen you can scoop out half a bucket of boiling water from the giant cauldron which you can mix with the cold water from the tap down the hall and have a really fantastic warm bucket shower! After following their advice we sat down for a drink with them and learned that they had also done the same climb as us – but they had done it the week before, reached the lovely town of Luang Prabang, had a rest, and decided to turn back and do it all again! We straightened up in our chairs and pretended not to be so tired as we heard all about their adventures bike touring for three months every year for the last 35 years! Sally and Peter were just the kind of energizing inspiration we needed to make the hills for the next few days not seem quite so steep. They have a great website called Ride the Road.

Aside from these inspiring encounters, our experience of Laos seemed very different to what our friends and guide books described just a few years ago. I had imagined pedalling along forested roads with almost no traffic. What I saw instead was cleared land, extensive burning and many trucks and (expensive) cars. To be fair, we also passed many signs for protected areas down side roads away from the main road we were traveling, but overall this was not the still-pristine tropical cyclist’s paradise others before us had described. After a few days of this I decided to reread the guidebook a little closer and noticed that Laos’ GDP is growing at a rate of almost 8% per year. A similar thing had happened to me on a different trip to Malaysia when I visited some small islands that online articles written just three years earlier had described as idyllic willdlife spots, dotted with a few simple bungalows and free of ATMs, internet and too much tourist development. When I arrived there was trash and huge ugly concrete piers on every beach.

All of this has made me think about how rapid growth affects a country and what scary truths hide behind the polished face of tourism. Tourism is supposedly the largest sector of the world economy. And where tourists go, the industry has a significant impact on the environment and social conditions of an area. I’ve considered working in ecotourism because I like bringing people in contact with nature in ways that gives them an inspiring experience that might lead them to care that much more about our natural environment. But trying to create a special experience for tourists is one of the greatest risks of the business if it leads to ancient communities being relocated from natural areas to make them seem more pristine or other such absurd but unmentioned rearrangements of landscapes to match tourist expectations. The truth is that not all of our experiences in nature will be beautiful and inspiring. The question is how do we give people a realistic experience of the natural world (and the social conditions that shape it) that motivates them to be more environmentally conscious in their daily lives?

To see what I saw in Laos take a look at my photos from 1,700km and six weeks of biking across the country.

Questions you ask yourself

Burning, Vietnam, April 2012
Burning, Vietnam, April 2012

While bike touring there is plenty of time to wonder about what I’m seeing and ask questions but never enough time to stop and get answers.

It has been harder than I expected to keep writing about environmental issues while traveling. It’s not for lack of exposure to it: I have biked through grim deforested landscapes, inhaled putrid black clouds of pollution coughed out the back of trucks and can rarely pedal more than a few minutes without seeing trash as we’ve biked up through southeast Asia and now across China. But I know that without an understanding of the specific local context that has created these problems I cannot know why these things are happening, what’s in the way of a solution, or even perhaps that this is not too bad because there are good things I haven’t seen – national parks away from roads and out of my sight, for example.

So rather than try to provide a report of any particular environmental story or issue, I thought I’d share some of the questions I’ve been asking myself…

  • Why are they burning so many acres of their hills in northern Laos and Vietnam?
  • Why do they burn piles of leaves but not the mountains of trash?
  • Why does someone at the food processing company think that each cookie needs to be wrapped in foil, cradled in a plastic tray, wrapped in another foil wrapper and then, just in case, wrapped in another plastic package?
  • What happens to the circles of friends and neighbors when entire villages are relocated because a hydro-electric dam floods their valley?
  • How can the Chinese grow such tidy fields of nutritious vegetables and build with such aesthetic finesse also create and tolerate such impressive amounts of pollution, litter and waste?
Trash landscape, Laos, April 2012
Trash landscape, Laos, April 2012
Farming/gardening between Er Yuan and Shaxi, Yunnan Province, China, April 2012
Farming/gardening between Er Yuan and Shaxi, Yunnan Province, China, April 2012
Beautiful decorated walls in the Bai architectural style, north of Dali, Yunnan Province, April 2012
Beautiful decorated walls in the Bai architectural style, north of Dali, Yunnan Province, April 2012

I tried to write down some of the answers I have come up with after riding my bike through these perplexing landscapes but they are just rambling train-of-thought speculations. What I’ve realized (for the hundredth time in my life) is that solutions must be local. There are no wave of the hand, cure-all global solutions. The travelers I meet who say “oh they should just…” are wrong. Without genuine understanding of the local ecology, culture, language, political, economic and social contexts, an outsider like myself has no solutions to offer.

Frustrating? Certainly. Particularly because I have not lived long enough in one place to feel that I am a true local or expert. I guess I’ll stick to asking questions. Here is one more: Will the beautiful roads I’ve ridden and the ones I’m saving for another day still be here for my next bike trip or will they, too, be damaged in the name of growth and development?

Learning conservation, Khmer and how to say hi to a million kids in Cambodia

In February we spent over three weeks biking across Cambodia, a place I expected to have mainly dirt roads and sad, reserved people scarred by the history of the Khmer Rouge and the ongoing threat of landmines.
What I found instead were good roads and most importantly, smiling, laughing, screaming, cheerful children everywhere. Apparently nearly 50% of the 6 or 7 million Cambodians are under 16, which is easy to believe when you find yourself losing your voice from trying to say hello back to them all.

The highlights were definitely the days we spent along the Mekong outside of Phnom Penh up to Kratie and biking around the Angkor Wat temples. Here are a set of pictures to give you a taste of what Cambodia is like.

On the road

What do you see on the roads in Cambodia?

Haybale on wheels (western Cambodia) Haybale on wheels (western Cambodia)

Haybales on wheels lumbering by that leave bits of hay stuck in your helmet.

Family vehicle (Cambodia, between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) Family vehicle (Cambodia, between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh)

Squeaky bikes for the whole family. Bike-pooling is the way to ride in Cambodia!

Temples everywhere (Cambodia, between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) Temples everywhere (Cambodia, between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh)

Cambodia is mostly Buddhist and there are temples all over the place. I wondered about the dynamics between the monks that live in these beautifully-maintained buildings who make daily alms rounds to villagers in rickety, dilapidated houses to ask them for rice and money in exchange for a blessing.

House on the road (Cambodia, between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) House on the road (Cambodia, between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) Houses on the road (Cambodia, between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) Houses on the road (Cambodia, between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh)

The typical Cambodian rural houses seems to be made of wood with blue trim and tile or thatch roofs. As you ride by you squint your eyes against the sun to pick out the source of the voice shouting “Hello! HellO! HELLO!” from where it is resting in the shade under the house so you can try to wave back in the right general direction without falling off your bike since while you were looking away from the road you didn’t see the upcoming pot-hole.

Cheerful bikers (Cambodia, between Phnom Penh and Kratie) Cheerful bikers (Cambodia, between Phnom Penh and Kratie)

There is plenty of traffic in Cambodia but there are also still thousands of bicycles that people cheerfully ride along the mostly-smooth roads. How long until they make the transition to almost only motorized transport as in Thailand?

Schools and kids everywhere Schools and kids everywhere

There are schools and kids everywhere! It’s fantastic to see such an abundance of schools and children who clearly have no confidence problems as they shout hello to us strangers passing by. Despite the fact that 99% of the time the kids weren’t actually in school but biking away from it or outside for recess, I felt extremely hopeful about Cambodia because at least they’re trying to educate the next generation.

The man we could talk to because he spoke French! The man we could talk to because he spoke French!

I was told that the burden of recent history weighs heavily on Cambodians and they would be sad and reserved. Luckily it was hard to see past the noisy happy children, but I did notice that the adults were more reserved and less likely to smile and wave hello than in Thailand. The older people we met, like this man we were able to talk to because he spoke French would have certainly suffered greatly during Pol Pot’s reign, no matter which side of the conflict they were on.

History

S-21 Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh S-21 Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh

In the years up to 1975 Cambodia was in a civil war that led to the Khmer Rouge take-over of the capital that year. The day they took Phnom Penh they emptied the cities and began forced labor camps. They also took schools like this one and converted it into a prison where thousands of people were tortured for information and killed. Seven of the 20,000 that came through prison S-21 survived. At the S-21 museum we learned that this was just one of hundreds of similar prisons across the country. Around 2 million people were killed in the genocide that lasted from 1975 to 1979.

Being a sustainable tourist

Typical roadside snack stop Typical roadside snack stop

This is what a typical stop looks like when you are biking in Southeast Asia: the front of someone’s house converted into a small store, filled with mostly nutrition-less food wrapped in plastic and more plastic. About every 20km or so we start to look out for those orange treasure chests: cooler boxes that conceal cold, sweet relief from the heat. Shamefully, my willpower to resist the bottled drinks wilted in the 40 degree heat, so in the rural areas I tried to carry my trash to bigger towns where hopefully it would be burned or buried rather than scattered along the side of the road or in someone’s backyard.

Sticky rice in bamboo containers Sticky rice in bamboo containers

Sticky rice and beans packed into bamboo stick wrappers (‘krolan’) is one of the few snacks you can get on the road that doesn’t leave a plastic legacy behind. Unfortunately business creativity seems to be lacking in Cambodia because all the  women we saw selling these were in one spot. (Coconuts are also a good option – someone just needs to invent a biodegradable straw!)

 Development

Riverside in Phnom Penh Riverside in Phnom Penh SUVs in Phnom Penh SUVs in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh’s waterfront was a lovely, clean, tiled quai-side with colorful, sparkling boats, though just a street back was the dirty market. The cars some people drive are also in stark contrast to the rickety, squeaking bicycles of the countryside.

 Environmental challenges

Sweeping trash (Cambodia, market in Phnom Penh) Sweeping trash (Cambodia, market in Phnom Penh)

I thought Thailand had a litter problem but it seemed even worse in Cambodia: in every market I visited I felt like I was shuffling my feet through a thick layer of plastic trash and food scraps. The morning market in Phnom Penh was clean in contrast thanks to this man sweeping up the scraps.

(not) In my backyard-ism / not NIMBYISM (not) In my backyard-ism / not NIMBYISM

If people have to put up with this much trash in their own backyards can anyone really expect them to care about a bit more litter by the side of the road? As a biker from countries where you can be fined for littering it’s still hard to see so much trash along the way.

River life

Precarious house (Cambodia, between Battambang and Siem Reap) Precarious house (Cambodia, between Battambang and Siem Reap) Floating houses (Cambodia, between Battambang and Siem Reap) Floating houses (Cambodia, between Battambang and Siem Reap)

To avoid the busy tourist track road between the Thai border and Siem Reap (location of Angkor Wat) we first headed south to Battambang, then took a boat across the Tonle Sap lake to Siem Reap. The slow eight-hour ride gave us a chance to observe how people live along a river and on Southeast Asia’s biggest natural lake.

Despite the proximity of the lake to Siem Reap, the town faces water shortage issues because of its outdated water pumping system – and the increased demand from tourism. Locals have their water rationed throughout the day – but not the hotels, or the upcoming golf course.

 Tourism and Angkor Wat

Stephane shows us around Angkor Wat Stephane shows us around Angkor Wat

In Siem Reap we met up with Stéphane, a friend of a friend who has lived in Cambodia for several years and has fantastic knowledge of the natural and archaeological history of the area. He also works for an organisation that documents land-mind casualties to try to get them cleared and banned. The information they gather has been used to convince the government to redirect de-mining efforts to populated rural areas rather than just on new road or construction sites. The annual number of casualties has come down from around 800 to 200.

Stunning Bayon temple at Angkor Wat, Cambodia Stunning Bayon temple at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The temples are stunning and definitely one of Cambodia’s real treasures. Thanks to tourism the area is well maintained and thus fairly free of litter and still well-forested.

Falangs everywhere (Tourists/white people everywhere) Falangs everywhere (Tourists/white people everywhere)

Everyone visits this temple where the trees climb over the ruins and wants to take the same photo. After waiting impatiently for a few minutes for the people to clear I realized it wouldn’t happen and decided to show you what it’s really like: too crowded! Our favorite parts of the temple complex were the areas that barely get a mention in the guidebooks where you can slowly ride around on single tracks and soak up the atmosphere.

 Mekong

A beautiful place to camp by the Mekong A beautiful place to camp by the Mekong

The Mekong is a beautiful river and cycling along its banks north of Phnom Penh was a great chance to roll slowly over bumpy, dusty roads and say hello (Soussa-dei!) to lots and lots and lots of kids.

Trash on the MEkong river banks Trash on the MEkong river banks

Moving closer to the edge of the road for a photo and then realizing the river bank is covered in trash like this makes you think twice about buying another can of coke or plastic bottle of ice tea at the next break. If the people who design the packaging for this food saw where it all ended up would it make them think twice about the designs and materials?  There is no garbage collection system, so where are the people supposed to put all the trash?

Mekong backyards Mekong backyards

The dirt roads between Phnom Penh and Kratie brought us past agricultural villages growing rice and other fruits.

Bridge at Kampong Cham Bridge at Kampong Cham

Though the Mekong is not a major trade or transport artery, it is not entirely rural and does have some big concrete bridges like this one across it.

 Wildlife

At the temple in Sambor we visited the conservation center for the globally Endangered Frog-faced Soft-Shelled Turtle. They run a small but impressive center for a number of young turtles that seem to spend all their time buried under the sand in their little tanks. Locals receive money to bring in eggs or hatchlings as an incentive not to instead sell them for food or medicine on the black market. At the conservation center (supported by Conservation International) they care for the hatchlings until they are old enough to be released. It was inspiring to read about the increase in nesting sites and hatchling survival thanks to this simple but obviously effective conservation effort. And the turtles were extremely cool little creatures!

Asian Giant Soft-Shelled Turtle Asian Giant Soft-Shelled Turtle Information about the conservation status Information about the conservation status

In the late afternoon our host at the homestay in Koh Phdau on Koh Rouginiv island (30km north of Kratie) took us out on a small boat to see the river dolphins. We were lucky and saw plenty of the freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins, a globally Vulnerable animal that lives in brackish waters and several rivers of South East Asia. In the Mekong there may be only 80 or 90 left. Catching glimpses of them breaking the surface of the smooth, swirling water and hearing them blow in the quiet evening on the river was certainly one of the most magical moments of Cambodia.

River dolphins River dolphins

The dolphins are threatened by habitat loss and destruction but also by gill-net fishing that can ensnare dolphins. Luckily these three boys we saw fishing in the late afternoon are just using a small net.

Boys fishing on the Mekong river Boys fishing on the Mekong river

Click here to see more photos of Cambodia…

Changes to this blog

I started this blog just before my masters in conservation as a way to reflect on environmental challenges and present the latest issues in easy-to-understand language for anyone who wanted to read about it. Now that I am traveling and looking for ways to do good for the planet while living adventures outdoors I’m going to expand my focus to include writing and photos about life on the road. It’s not going to become a personal travel blog, but it will be about bike touring, living sustainably, adventure, outdoor sports and inspiration from nature – all told through an environmentalist’s lens wherever possible.
The planet is our playground.

Uma, duas, três, Jump!
Uma, duas, três, Jump!

Principles before profits?

“Most shareholders invest for the return to them, not for the return to somebody else,”
“If your goal as a corporation is to better the environment, then you should be working philanthropically,”

These are quotes in a 2010 article that I just came across about “benefit corporations”. It talks about states in the US giving a special type of company protection against shareholder lawsuits – presumably to give them more legal backing to do good in the face of pressure to perform only to the financial bottom line.

Can companies put principles before profits? I understand the old way of thinking that companies should make profits, governments should protect their citizens and the public sector should hold both accountable to these goals. But I don’t really think it works. And I think we should promote a change in this model.

Companies can do good. Governments should protect their citizens before their corporations. And the public/voluntary sector should continue to hold them accountable.

This article highlights five companies that are making significant profits while doing good (though they don’t give their criteria – negative points for lack of transparency). Should we let companies and shareholders to decide the balance between enough good and as much profit as they can possibly make?

As a conservationist I’m always thinking about who I need to influence to get the change I want to see. With getting companies to do good, I think the pressure points could be either the shareholders, the CEOs, the customers, or the lawyers who write the laws that protect whichever one of these groups has the sense to do something good for the planet.

Where do you think we have the best chance of getting some of our most powerful ‘citizens’ (corporations) to do good for the planet?

Read more: 

  • The Ecologist magazine online has a section called “Behind the Brand” that provides thoughtful analysis of major companies’ ethical behaviour.
  • IUCN’s work to influence business
  • A programme at Cambridge that helps business leaders work together for sustainability in business