Clemson to host forum, book launch on American conservation
CLEMSON — A conversation requires dialogue, or more than one voice, and an upcoming event on Clemson University’s campus is aimed at sparking just such an exchange of ideas on the topic of conservation.
Held in conjunction with the release and launch of a national book tour for “The Future of Conservation in America: A Chart for Rough Water,” by Clemson professor Gary Machlis and former National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis, the event will use the opportunity for a candid discussion on the state of American conservation and its path forward.
The forum will feature three Clemson faculty members, Rob Baldwin, Drew Lanham and Machlis, and graduate student Jesse Wood, each of whom will share their perspectives on conservation. WYFF News 4 news anchor and Clemson alumna Jane Robelot will moderate.
Machlis, university professor of environmental sustainability, was the first scientist appointed to the position of science advisor to the director of the National Park Service.
“The event is taking advantage of the extraordinary expertise we have on campus on conservation,” Machlis said. “I think it’s an intriguing opportunity for people to learn about these different perspectives from uniquely experienced Clemson faculty and students.”
Baldwin is professor and Margaret H. Lloyd-SmartState Endowed Chair in the forestry and environmental conservation department. He has raised millions for conservation research at Clemson, supporting numerous students and other young professionals.
“The event is important because human life and well-being depend on a functioning natural environment,” Baldwin said. “Ecosystem services include water purification, supply and flood storage, soils, pollination of crops, timber, recreation, fish and game. Development fragments natural habitats into smaller pieces that when isolated cannot sustain these services. The great challenge of the 21st century is to maintain and restore connected nature.”
A conservation ornithologist, Lanham is an alumni distinguished professor and alumni master teacher at Clemson who is intrigued with how culture and ethnic prisms can bend perceptions of nature and its care.
“Conservation ultimately comes down to a matter of personal ethic,” Lanham said. “It is one that is hopefully driven by passion for the ‘resource,’ whether water, soil or wildlife, and by the love we have for those coming behind us — friend, family or even foe. The way to enjoin this love and passion is by candid conversation to fully expose true motivations and hopefully illuminate shared agendas. This event is a first step on that path.”
While the event features three distinguished faculty members, Machlis argued that graduate student Wood’s presence in the discussion holds special significance.
“Because it isn’t just that the Baby Boomers — us old guys — have to talk about conservation; the next generation need to be on stage sharing their views about the future,” he said.
Wood, a wildlife and fisheries biology master’s student, is interested in exploring opportunities for conservation beyond traditional protected areas and believes “the time has never been more right” for such a discussion.
“Much of the news about our environment is negative, leading to dangerous inaction and apathy,” Wood said. “Though a healthy amount of realism is necessary, I’d like to see us less preoccupied with doom-and-gloom predictions and more focused on opportunities for creative solutions.
“As part of the next generation of stewards, we cannot assume it is anyone else’s responsibility to plan for, protect and enjoy our natural world wisely. We can’t afford to.”
The event is expanded to last about an hour and a half, with each speaker giving brief remarks before Robelot asks a series of questions and takes questions from the audience. Immediately following the event, Machlis will hold a book signing with copies available for purchase.
“The authors draw from a combined 80 years of public service in conservation and science to chart a course for a new generation of conservation action and leadership,” former President Jimmy Carter wrote for the book.
“We wrote the book because the current assault on conservation requires both an alarm to go off about the threats to the American landscape and what to do about them,” Machlis said. “We also wrote the book to emphasize the importance to the conservation movement of taking the long view, beyond this administration, and to apply practical and effective strategies for advancing conservation.”
Machlis and Jarvis argue that a unified vision of conservation is needed, combining nature protection, historic preservation, ecosystem services, sustainability, health care, civil rights and social justice, and science.
Another theme presented in the book, said Machlis, is an accompanying optimism over a long-term perspective.
“The book starts with alarm and outrage; it ends with hope and confidence in the American people,” he said.
The event represents the kickoff of a national book tour that Machlis hopes will encourage young people to become today’s conservation leaders.
“A dialogue on the future of conservation in America is sorely needed, and a conversation with outstanding Clemson faculty and students is a great place to start,” he said.