02 July 2018

Searching for consistency

In a 2009 editorial published in Conservation Biology, titled When Swordfish Conservation Biologists Eat Swordfish, I pointed out some inconsistency in the behaviour of conservation biologists, and advocated teaching through example.

Years ago, when I was a co-editor of the scientific journal Endangered Species Research, I used to receive journal issues wrapped in heavy plastic. More recently, some customers complained because the National Geographic Magazine issue on plastic pollution came... wrapped in a plastic bag inside another plastic bag. Though National Geographic says they will get rid of plastic wrappers by 2019, so far they haven't been teaching through example.

Being consistent and contributing to positive change is hard. Have you ever tried to avoid plastic when shopping at the average supermarket? One wonders why even organic, vegetarian and vegan food items still come with plastic packaging. And then, most of the time, the cashier won't see why you do not need a plastic bag to take away a small item.

Hopeless as it may seem, we should take our chance of contributing to a collective shift in behaviour. As famously stated by Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." A recent study found that it takes 25% of people to start a revolution that eventually affects everybody. Being part of that 25%, being part of the solution, looks like a worthwhile challenge.

Giovanni Bearzi

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