Urban dimensions of urban wildlife conservation

Introduction: please read chapters three (“Urban Wildlife Science in Coupled Human-Natural Systems”) and six (“The Urban System: Social Drivers”). There are also a few additional readings (see below). The beginning of chapter three stresses that there are really no ecological systems on the planet that have not been long-influenced by humans. Even tropical forests that Europeans thought were “wild” were often actually well-tended gardens. So change and impact might be greater in urban systems than in some other places, but it is not true that some places are untouched by humans. We discussed this a bit last week, but it bears mentioning again here. This attitude and belief stems from one of the myths that has been seriously detrimental to conservation — the so-called “nature/culture divide.” This worldview states that nature is something that happens “out there,” away from the human-built environment, and so nature is not welcomed into places that are deemed by humans to be human-centric (or at least not all nature — for examples, song birds might be welcomed into a city but coyotes not). The problem with this perspective, of course, is that it creates an artificial separation between humans and nature. It’s harmful for several reasons: • Perhaps most obviously, it separates people from nature. If wildlife is not welcomed into places where humans live, work, and play, then people don’t have exposure to that wildlife. We’ve discussed a bit why exposure to nature is important to people so far this semester • There’s no real limit on the area that people determine is theirs, and so by extension where wildlife does not belong. We often think of the nature-culture divide coming into play in urban areas — and that’s true, it often does. But we also see it pop up in rural areas (for example, ranchers in the American SW who believe that Mexican wolves have no role to play in a “civilized” America) and as conflict over resources (seals and sea lions eating salmon that fishermen — commercial or recreational — feel belongs to them). Busting through this myth and creating new paradigms and stories could be one of the most effective things that conservation biologists could do. On page 36 of the text, the authors lay out the different types of ecosystem services that natural systems provide to humans. I’d like to add two more: • The idea that ecosystems and/or the species that populate them have intrinsic value (which many people believe very strongly in, and strong beliefs can help drive conservation decisions). • The idea that humans place value on an ecosystem or species simply because they exist (this is often called existence value). Although these don’t provide biological services to people, they do come into play in conservation issues. On page 97, note the idea of “landscape literacy.” Although the concept itself doesn’t necessarily include urban wildlife, there’s a strong argument to be made that it should. This basic idea is something well-worth exploring and thinking about in the context of urban conservation. There are three additional readings: Ewert’s “Human Dimensions Research and Natural Resource Management,” Sprague and Draheim’s “Hawaiian Monk Seals: Labels, Names, and Stories in Conflict,” and a (short!) four-part blog series on the concept of “pest.” Ewert provides a nice overview of some of the types of things that human dimensions research does. It’s a bit old, and there are new fields of inquiries (the optional reading, below, can provide information on some of this), but it’s a nice, short overview. The monk seal reading is a case study that shows the role that human dimensions play in a conservation conflict. Although marine life often gets left out of the picture when it comes to urban wildlife, coastal cities often have abundant marine life – some of which, including the Hawaiian monk seals – is quite endangered. The blog posts come from some of Dr. Draheim’s work, and examine the way that humans construct the concept of pest, something that to a large extent impacts how people interact with wildlife in urban areas. Blog website: Pests and Varmints and Vermin, Oh My (Part I): https://oururbanjungle.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/pests-and-varmints-and-vermin-oh-my-part-i/ How to Construct a Pest (Part II): https://oururbanjungle.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/how-to-construct-a-pest-part-ii/ The Human Side of “Pests” (Part III): https://oururbanjungle.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/the-human-side-of-pests-part-iii/ Moral Communities and “Pests” (Part IV): https://oururbanjungle.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/moral-communities-and-pests-part-iv/

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