Saturday, June 14, 2008

P.M.T. (Pt 2)

I was speaking with a friend of mine during the week about the PMT issue, he pointed out, quite reasonably that tree planting is a good "awareness raising" tool. I do have to agree, however tools are only as good as those using them and it is quite difficult to use just one tool for a complex project (just think of the tools used building a house, changing community attitudes and and actually generating change is a far more complex task).

We've been raising awareness in this manner for the past two decades, so what do we do after the awareness has been raised? Where do these people go on to? PMT because that's the message we've been giving them? Is it enough? How do we reach those who aren't receptive to the message? Do we continue to preach to the converted?

I've been involved in environmental education, Landcare, natural resources management for close to 15 years (well much longer if you count firefighting as an NRM activity) and I've long given up on the "warm & fuzzy" message of environmental education. The "warm & fuzzy" (& PMT) is great with schoolkids and very effective and while their parents will listen and will go along and plant a couple of trees will rarely make a change to their lives or a commitment. If the message is something people can relate to, or have a relationship with, then they are more likely carry it through.

The two great motivators tend to be the stomach and the wallet, when talking about plants I'll talk about their uses whether they be as a food or medicine, a useful grazing species or as a good habitat for pollinating insects, insectivorous birds or parasitic wasps. In the case of primary producers the last examples are particularly useful, give them the "warm & fuzzy" talk and they'll often fence off a corner of a paddock, tell them how it's going to improve their productivity and they'll integrate it into their farming practices. The increasing popularity of native pastures and cell grazing is a great example of this with many previously uncommon grass species increasing in frequency due to a change to a more sustainable and profitable system.

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