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USDA Forest Service Proceedings

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Conservation, Conservation of natural resources


Conservationists rely heavily on support from sectors of the population that want wildlife and wild places protected, but for whom it is not a priority. Support for conservation is widespread but not deep and seems to be weakening. This must be changed. Some of the obstacles are material—such as, fewer people have spent any part of their childhood immersed in nature. But many of the obstacles to deepening support among various constituencies rests with conservationists' prejudices: a belief that if people know the facts they will do the right thing; that truth by itself can overcome propaganda; that people are persuaded to act by argument. The evidence runs contrary to these assumptions. People are motivated by their needs and emotions; most political action is not the result of conscious decision processes; people respond to information encoded in symbols and stories, both religious and secular, to which they have been socialized; ritual and organization are more important than belief in motivating and sustaining political action. Conservationists, by using these findings and becoming more adept at understanding and speaking within the framework of existing mythologies and symbolic systems, can become more effective at mobilizing key constituencies.


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States. This is the final PDF. Originally published in USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS-P-49.

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