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Save a Species by Failing, and Admitting It

This past week I attended the SMBC (Mesoamerican Society of Biology and Conservation) Parrot Symposium in Antigua Guatemala. One of my presentations was, “Scaling Up By Scaling Down: Conservation in Guatemala.” I referred to a recent research article that concluded that the greatest cause of conservation project failure was interpersonal relations, not external factors like politics, corruption, and violence, which are rampant in Central America socioeconomic landscapes. My conclusion was that if we wanted to grow our conservation projects we had to “scale down” and pay attention to building social capital within our team members and participating organizations and communities.

The bright side of these causes of failures is that we can learn and improve our interpersonal relations, while we might not otherwise have much control over lack of funding, climate change, poverty, or other negative impacts on conservation efforts. But we can’t learn, as this study surmised, if we don’t admit our failures, publicly, and learn from them, individually and as a group and coalition of activists.

So my presentation continued with me admitting to a major failed project in Guatemala during the 1990s, the agonizing details which can be found in my quite public memoir, "Conservation in a Time of War.” But I learned much from the loss of so many birds, habitats, and frankly, hope and energy for many years. I knew that I needed to find a way to improve both my relations with others, with myself, and with other species. This way I could address the leading causes of project failures as found in the abovementioned study: problematic interactions between people, lack of trust, negative experiences with past conservation initiatives, and inefficient communication.

How do we address these problems? One Earth Conservation guides others to develop relationships through our Nurture Nature Program, of which our latest book, “Nurturing Discussions and Practices,” is a major part.

Parrot conservationists at the SMBC Parrot Conference

I "leaned on" another way of growing relationships this week by attending this conference. By spending an entire day with fellow parrot conservationists, learning about and adjusting our collected efforts towards a stronger conservation stand, I found new friends and seeds for future work. There is nothing like face-to-face meetings, time, and a slowed-down schedule to inspire trust and facilitate communication.

So thank you dear fellow parrot conservationists, which include all our donors and readers of this blog. Fail forward ho!

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