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Journeying in biocultural diversity and conservation philanthropy: Q&A with Ken Wilson

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 Love these extracts:

Wilson says that the concept of biocultural diversity has been embraced because “it is a term that somehow invites attention to the connections – tangible and intangible – between local cultures, territorial governance systems, sustainable livelihood traditions and the experience of sacredness. Furthermore, it bolsters claims of significance and rights in ways that simultaneously convey beauty, responsibility, wholeness, caring.”

“These initiatives need quiet, slow, long-term, flexible support, provided on local terms through grounded-staff and locally-accountable intermediaries,” Wilson said. “They are necessarily messy, meaningful, and organic; they do not thrive when we press upon our Indigenous partners the stereotypes of perfection or heroism; they do not work when we imagine ourselves as the heroes.”

On the other hand, I have always had a love-hate relationship with universities and academia, both as a student and then during my time on staff at Oxford.  When I shifted from research into grant making at the Ford Foundation that experience of ambiguity only continued, even as I helped channel millions of dollars into building university systems around the world.  How could something potentially so liberating as higher education be so comfortable with its own internal competitiveness, self-reference and conservatism on the one hand and its tendency to be all superior and critical of ordinary mortals’ efforts to solve problems on the other?  Furthermore, the Victorian intellectual tradition of extractivism around local artifacts, biodiversity,

Growth and quality.  Growth in whole landscape-seascape connected approaches beyond protected areas.  Growth in attention to biocultural diversity and Indigenous stewardship.  Growth in recognition that transforming agriculture needs to be a core concern for conservation.  Growth in support to environmental justice movements.  But growth has dangers too – and it comes back to the fact that, with bigger money, it usually seems easier, faster and grander to deploy it through bigger projects run by bigger organizations pursuing (so-called) bigger ideas.  Doing that unbalances the funding ecosystem, putting too much money at the top and too little for the base of the pyramid.  Without substantial initiatives owned at community level the big projects spin their wheels, and wider society looks at conservation as the plaything of the wealthy and powerful, or, at the very least, as something not for them.  This dynamic has of course long characterized the poor performance of conservation in our most colonized contexts.  This is where a change in quality comes in.

Interesting also to know Katherine Homewood was his PhD supervisor and how she inspired him... She was my first supervisor during my MSc and the one who examined my PhD upgrade. Small world.

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community-led conservation

Ken Wilson

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