Podcast: Andre Mader | The Case for Conservation podcast

Today we’re speaking with the host of The Case for Conservation Podcast and Programme Director at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, André Mader.

André is a conservation biologist by training and he’s worked mostly in biodiversity policy, first in his native South Africa, and then also in Canada, Switzerland and Japan. During the podcast, we talk about the role of policy and strategy in wildlife conservation efforts, with agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity seeking to influence governments globally to develop more sustainably.

We also hear André’s thoughts on podcasting, and advice he’d give to people like you seeking to follow in his footsteps. It’s a really thoughtful, wide-ranging and engaging discussion. As always, enjoy. 

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Audio Transcript  

Andre   

My name is Andre Mader and my current position is as Programme Director of a unit called Natural Resources and Ecosystem Services in an institute called the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, which is located in Japan. 

Nick   

Great and welcome. Thank you for joining the podcast today Andre, it’s really nice to be connected to you. Let’s start with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. I’ll be honest, I’ve not heard about it before, but I’m really interested to know a lot more about it. For someone like me, or one of our listeners, you know, what is it and what do you do as an organisation?  

André   

Yeah, I also hadn’t heard about it until a few years before I joined and I think outside Asia, it’s not that well known. But certainly in Japan, it’s well known and more broadly, in Asia, quite well known. And I think we’re starting to spread our global name a little bit more these days. What it is essentially is a Policy Research Institute, Environmental Policy Research Institute, that’s the kind of the short answer. And what that means is basically, environmental research in a variety of fields, so conservation is just one corner of that. And policy is the main focus. But we do a lot of projects and publications which are beyond policy and sort of leading up to policy. So it’s not entirely policy oriented. Some of its more practical than that and some of it’s quite science oriented as well. Quite a lot of peer reviewed publications, especially now, there’s been quite an increase in peer reviewed publications coming out of especially my unit, actually. 

 Nick   

So you produce policy and advice for governments or for I mean, who are you trying to sort of influence with the studies and the policies that you’re kind of, that you’re working through as an institute? 

André   

When things work well, the policy that we write is or that we advise on is for governments, for national governments, sometimes for local governments, as well, quite often, but it’s sort of feeds into the bigger machine, you know, there’ll be reports and other kinds of publications, which may be picked up one by governments, but they’re not written specifically for certain governments and they might be read more by other organisations like ours, you know, more than the actual policymakers themselves. But the ultimate aim is to influence policymakers and policymaking especially, at the national level. 

Nick   

Have you got any examples of kind of, you know, high profile things that you or the institute have kind of worked on in recent years just to kind of paint a more colourful picture, of the sorts of work that you deliver?  

André   

Yeah, there’s a real variety, actually, a lot of the stuff that my unit is doing these days is quite specific to certain countries. So first actually mentioned that natural resources and ecosystem services is, well consists of four teams. One of them is a biodiversity team, which is where my expertise is, as well, one’s on forest conservation, which is very biodiversity oriented, but they work especially on timber legality issues, quite a specific focus. And then there’s a water team mostly on sanitation, and then a climate change adaptation team. So, those two are a little bit removed from the rest. And the water team, for example, has been writing a lot and we’re doing a lot of project work and with some resulting publications on managing water sanitation in Southeast Asia, especially. So these will be reports which are delivered to the relevant government departments in places like Cambodia and Laos and others. So that’s sort of one example. And very often, it’s that sort of thing. We also do a lot for the Ministry of Environment in Japan. So IGES just was actually set up by the Ministry and the local prefecture. So a lot of the work is actually commissioned by them. I don’t know exactly what the percentage is but a bit less than 50%. But quite a big chunk of the work that we do is directly for the Japanese government. 

Nick   

Right. Okay. Yeah. And you mentioned that the team that you had up is all about natural resources and ecosystem services. I mean, these are kind of almost like popular buzzwords, I guess, within the conservation movement nowadays, something that people have heard more and more of, particularly when you’re working with in the sector, but what do we mean by these terms, natural resources, ecosystem services, you know, how would you describe it to people that aren’t quite sure what we’re talking about? 

André   

Well, to be honest, if it was up to me, I would not have used that name. As you say, it’s very general. I find we’ve actually been talking recently in the new phase. I can’t say too much about this, because it’s sort of internal at the moment, but in the new phase, which we’ll be entering next year, new four year phase, we’ll be doing some renaming and restructuring, so that name probably won’t survive the transition. The main issue with that is that natural resources is incredibly broad in most people’s vocabulary that includes abiotic resources, things like mine, minerals, and all the rest of it, which is not part of our focus, but it’s intended to refer to the biotic component of resources. And then ecosystem services is also a very broad word that which kind of belongs more in the biodiversity realm, and not so much with climate change adaptation, and water and sanitation and that side of things. That’s a long way of saying it’s a pretty confusing name, which doesn’t say a huge amount. That’s why I often explain to people what the team names are, which says, I think more about what they do. 

Nick   

I see, yeah, and have you got any examples of ecosystem services? When I think about it, I think of I guess, clean water, clean air, food, those sorts of things. From a human centric perspective, how does nature help support us, help us to survive and thrive? Is that a way of thinking about it? 

André   

Yeah, that’s exactly right. The whole concept has been reformulated by IPBES so then how well you know IPBES it’s the intergovernmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services, which is where I worked before I was doing this, actually. So they’ve kind of restructured the whole thing. But essentially, the services can be divided into different categories. There’s regulating and provisioning, and habitat. Well, I’m so used to the new one, now that I’m forgetting the old categories. But some of them are regulatory services. So things like water purification, that refers to the way that wetlands and rivers purify the water that runs through them, you know, if they have healthy vegetated banks and all the rest of it, that’s an example of regulating service. And then the same system provides a provisional service, which is the actual supply of the water, you know. So that’s an example of the same system, providing two different kinds of ecosystem services. And in traditional ecosystem service literature, there are about 20, 18 or 20 of those services listed. At IPBES I think the number is roughly the same. But one service perhaps a nice example and one, which I’ve been talking I find myself talking about a lot recently is biodiversity itself and the way in which the diversity of life on Earth offers solutions and innovations to medicinal and technological fields. And I think it’s an ecosystem service, which is not explicitly named in the current systems. And yet, it’s the one which is most important if you’re talking about biodiversity, I think and perhaps most overlooked, as well. And I could speak quite a lot on that. But maybe just to mention some stats there are that in the last five years, there have been about 10,000, peer reviewed papers on innovations, medical technologically otherwise, which have borrowed from nature in one way or another, either design or the genes that they are using they’re sort of borrowing from species or whatever, because it’s a real treasure chest. It’s a huge number, but it’s also a tiny, tiny fraction of what’s known because most species are not even properly described yet. So yeah, so I find that a very interesting aspect of ecosystem services, which is very seldom actually spoken about surprisingly.   

Nick   

Yeah. And almost like a quite, for want of a better word, like another selfish reason for us to be preserving the natural world, you know, this is preserved.   

André   

Right.   

Nick   

There’s so many things we don’t know about yet, you know, that if it’s lost forever, we’re never going to be able to benefit from that just as human race, which is obviously just one way of valuing nature. Yeah. Within the industry, obviously, you focus on you know, policies and strategies to help conserve wildlife and do other things. Like why should people care? I think particularly about policy, I think it’s quite hard sometimes to kind of tangibly understand, you know, what is conservation policy? How might it make a difference? Why should people care about policy? Why is that important for conserving wildlife? 

André   

Yeah, I think you’re quite correct to sort of pull policy out of that equation, because strategy is something which you can quite easily picture at different scales, right? Strategy exists for a new nature reserve that’s being set up, for example, and it also exists at the international level. But policy is something more nebulous. And it’s interesting actually, if you look up synonyms for policy, the first two that come up are strategy and plan. In one sense, the no difference between the two. No, but in practice, policy is more about the framework into which strategy can fit. What I’ve been working on and been involved with for the past 10 or 15 years has been biodiversity policy at the international level. So the work that the UN does, and that other organisations feed into and but it’s mostly government oriented. A lot of it happens at the organisation level. But a lot also happens at the convention level. So the, what they would have called multinational environmental agreements. And the one that I was involved in was the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is the the biggest of the biodiversity oriented conventions. And what they do at their meetings, every two years or now a little bit extended because of COVID. But what they do is they all sit together for a week or 10 days, and they negotiate text. And that text is several page documents, which are actually just tiny amendments to existing text to fine tune the way in which countries should and that was important, should conserve biodiversity. So those decisions are not binding. This is a key thing so often quite hotly contested. The text is quite often hotly contested. But it’s not actually necessarily that that consequential, you know, because a country doesn’t have to abide by it. But I think that it does provide sort of a standard. And I think this sort of an expectation between countries that the others will pull their weight. That’s why they’ll sort of debate something until they’re happy with it, rather than agreeing with it and then not going with it. But having said that, I think the country is all when they agree on something they intend to follow through. But the actual follow through is another matter. You know actually getting things to happen that level at the national level is not always so easy. An example of that is the global biodiversity strategy, which is now a 10 year strategy, which is coming to an end now. You might have heard of IT biodiversity target, right. So famously, or infamously, none of those have been reached by all the other countries and they’re pretty much an end now. So that just shows how difficult it is for everyone to pull their weight in the right direction. 

Nick   

Yeah, it’s really interesting and interesting you mentioned their scale as well. Like when we think about careers in conservation, one question we often sort of think about with people is like, at what scale do you want your impact to be? So from the very local level, you might be wanting to just manage a nature reserve – it’s not just but you might want to manage a local site where you see and feel and always touch the impact of your work. You know, you put that barn or box up, I mean you see the bird fly into it. Part of you had an impact there, you know, you’ve helped that species, you can dig that ditch or whatever it might be. A totally opposite end of the scale spectrum, are exactly what you’re talking about, I think, which is working on these really big global conventions, the CBD, targets where, you know, you’re trying to change and influence text, and, you know, and goals of governments, but also that must disconnect you from the impact as well. You know, that what you’re doing is part of the greater good, and that, you know it’s moving things forward. It’s progressing. Its influencing governments, which has huge potential impact, but you as an individual find it presumably quite hard to unpick, I did that and as a result that happened. 

André   

Yeah, no, that’s absolutely right. And I think it does take something out of the experience. I think there’s a lot to be said, for being able to see the consequences of your actions and your hard work. And in work like this, that’s pretty difficult. I think that I mean an example of sort of, and I suppose you could call it an achievement in that area is some of the decisions that are referred to as decisions in the CBD. Some of the decisions on sub national governance, which is what I was involved in, specifically. I sort of steered the discussion a little bit and sort of drafted the decision. So that’s kind of the closest that you can hope to get to actually making an impact. But you actually have no idea if that makes an impact on the ground, which is what really matters.   

Nick   

But the potential for scale is huge, isn’t it?  

André   

Yeah, that’s right. It’s kind of like a, you know, the big fish in a small pond and small fish in a big pond kind of analogy. I think it rings true that you’re making a very small difference to something potentially huge, as opposed to a huge difference to something small, like a small nature reserve, and barn or box up, for example. 

Nick   

Much more succinct than how I try to explain it yeah. So let’s talk about your current role that Andre, within the Institute. What is your job and how would you describe it to people? What’s your job sort of day to day? What do you enjoy and what are your challenges?  

André   

It’s more or less, I’d say 50-50 between doing my own work, project work and research work and then management/admin work because I am the head of the unit so there’s a fair amount of administration involved, and then lots and lots of emailing, which sort of crosses both of those, those boundaries. I think, in a nutshell, that, you know, very broadly that would sort of describe the divide in what I do.   

Nick   

Which bits do you enjoy about your job? And which do you find particularly challenging or laborious or unexciting?  

André   

Working with people I think is both the most difficult and the most rewarding part probably. But then also, I think working with people is a very rewarding activity. But then I think also there needs to be a degree of creativity involved. And the work that I’m doing now actually, I’ve been talking about this global biodiversity policy stuff. I’m still involved in that, but in a more peripheral sense. So the work that I’m busy with now is more on a project basis and usually directed at particular governments. So there’s more room for creativity. Well the commissioned work is perhaps a little bit more restrictive, but especially in publications and smaller projects is you have quite a lot to say about how things are formed. And I think that, that is a pretty important factor when it comes to enjoying work, being able to exercise your creativity. And I think people say that in all different fields. I don’t think it’s particular to conservation, but I think it is important. 

Nick   

Yeah, well, an important aspect of many. Yeah. So you’re heading up this unit right now, at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. When you look back at your career, so far, what sort of stands out have been important stepping stones to get you to where you are? What have been your key roles or key moments, you know, when you look back, that kind of really stand out as a significant? 

André   

I think, to be honest, it was only probably in the last 10 years that I have been anything close to strategic about the route that I’ve taken. So before that, and sort of for the majority of my career, I really just sort of, you know, saw what came up. I very often took things, you know, the first thing that came up and sort of waiting to see what the options were. And that’s led me on an interesting and very diverse, but not necessarily one that I’d recommend to others. Because I think it’s sort of if you decide on your on your direction later on, then you’re going to be at a disadvantage to others you might be competing with, especially in something like international policy. Some of the UN guys will start, you know, while they’re still busy studying, and they’ll follow their career path, you know, from the very beginning. So that certainly wasn’t me. But I think probably the single decision that I made would change things most was deciding to go back to university when I was about when I was in my late 20s to do a master’s degree in conservation science. So until then, my degree was in nature conservation, a management degree, basically not a science degree. And then after doing some research works and assistance work, I sort of decided to hit in a more scientific direction. But then ironically, the first job that came up was a policy oriented job. So I never actually worked in biodiversity science. It’s always been since then it was all policy. But it was because of that degree that I ended up getting that job.  

Nick   

Right. Okay. And what jobs have you had then? Since then what’s your career look like to kind of fill those gaps?  

André   

Yeah, so the first half was, there was it’s such a variety. Working as a research assistant, I helped set up for a year a breeding centre for endangered wildlife in the Emirates and the Middle East. Well, and then I worked on organic farm for a little while. Really just all sorts of different things. And usually just for a year or less, maybe a little bit more than a year. And then the second half. So starting in sort of maybe 2007, or thereabouts, I started working with local governments on one strategy rather than policy. And then through their local government work, I ended up with an international organisation that also worked with local governments. So sort of a cross a bit of a crossover there, and then from there I went into the CBD Secretariat. And then from then on, I was very much working with the international realm I suppose.   

Nick   

You sort of found your groove, I guess, in the last 10 years with more strategic. Yeah. 

André   

Yeah, I guess I think that there is a certain allure in working internationally and the travel that’s involved with that kind of thing. I think that I was sort of happy to do all that. But I do very much miss, you know, being out in the bush so that’s what it is. And sort of in thinking about this interview actually, I’ve been reflecting a bit on that and thinking, well, you know, if I had to, I really wouldn’t mind going back to that way of living. Although I’m perfectly happy doing what I’m doing now. But yeah, you do sacrifice something. 

Nick   

Yeah, that’s interesting. You get the travel, you get the global impact but you miss that, yeah, that hands on localness that you had, I guess, back in your career earlier on. 

André   

Just simply being in nature, you know, having experiences in nature, all the more interesting experiences I’ve had have been in the first half of my career, literally all of them. I can’t think of anything very exciting that’s happened in the second half. 

Nick   

Yet. 

André   

Yes, yeah. But it’s also I mean, that second half has also been concurrent with getting married and starting a family. So it’s been different in every possible way, you know, matched fairly well, in that sense as well. 

Nick   

Yeah. Interesting. I normally ask people around careers advice. People are interested to hear careers advice from professional conservationists like yourself, and what would you share? And so you know, what advice would you give someone who’s seeking to kind of follow in your footsteps and work particularly within the realm of work you’re working in now sort of international policy strategy, that sort of stuff, you know. Someone who’s coming out of uni? What do they really need to bear in mind that will speed them up? 

André   

So if you’re following a UN career, which is not quite what I’ve done. I ended up in the UN but a very unusual route. But if you really are sure that you want to, you know, work for UN environment or the CBD or someone like that, then I think it pays to find out everything that you need to know about how that path works and all the exams, and you know how the structures work and all the rest of it, and probably good to start as soon as possible. But having said that, I don’t regret you know, having experimented with all sorts of things early on. So ideally, I would recommend that someone spend the first few years I’m not sure how many it depends on the person really, but maybe the first three or five years off to university just experimenting with a few things. But with something long term in mind, you know, with some sort of a long term goal in mind, which is not really what I had. I really just sort of went where the road took me. Yeah, I think having a long term strategy is helpful while you experiment with other things. 

Nick   

Yeah. And actually, that’s interesting. That’s exactly what we advise as well through conservation groups, like having a goal, having a target, a direction, but then in the early stage, kind of exploring that direction, and allow yourself to twist and turn a little bit based upon what you’re learning about yourself. But without that strategy really in place about where you’re trying to get to, then you’re not necessarily moving forwards as quickly as you could be doing. Yeah,  

André   

Yeah. Also no matter how much people tell you, you can’t really well, maybe I lack imagination, but you really have to experience things. But yes, experience the real world in order to know what it’s all about, you know, it’s very difficult to understand it completely, just by reading and hearing about it. Having said that though, I think there’s a lot to be said, for speaking to as many different professionals as you can, as well. People who are already in those positions who can give you sort of a flavour of what their corner of the profession is all about. 

Nick   

Yeah. And have you experienced that through your career? Some sort of mentors or people that have provided you support on key moments? 

André   

Yeah, but again, I never really sought them out more as I went along, I guess, but certainly in the beginning, I was more just kind of, you know, wide eyed and looking around, rather than having a particular direction. It is helpful to do that, if you have people. My aunt is a zoologist and she, I think influenced me. She was never tried to push me into the field. And my parents also very sort of pro conservation and never tried to get me to be a lawyer or an accountant. So you know, the field was very open, and there was of interest coming in from their sides. I think that probably influenced me. 

 Nick   

That helps a lot. Yeah. And that links to my follow up question I was going to ask actually earlier about the advice you give others. What careers advice specifically, would you give the 20 year old self? If you were speaking to yourself when you were 20. Looking back now, was there anything you’d say to that person to try and sort of change things career wise? 

André   

I think anything that I would, that would sort of come to mind is really that strategy thing, you know, the idea of go ahead and try things, but also have or keep checking in, you know, keep sort of taking a step back and having a look at the bigger picture and sort of where that fits in and what the different possibilities are. And have sort of a strategy and not just one strategy, but maybe a plan A, B and C in mind, you know. One experience that I had was that I, for a while I wanted to be a herpetologist. I was very interested in snakes as a kid. And if I remember correctly, my parents were very encouraging in many ways. But if I remember correctly, they discouraged me from going in that direction, because they said that a specialised field might restrict options. And I think that there’s some truth in that. But I think that more importantly, if you’re passionate about something, then you’ll kind of make it work, you know. So we haven’t really mentioned passion yet. And I’m sure that you do in Conservation Careers. But that’s something that’s incredibly important. You know that if you’re passionate about something, then you’ll enjoy it. And there’s nothing more important than that. 

Nick   

Yeah. And you’ll throw your energy into it, you’ll be enthusiastic about it, you’re likely to be very good at it and committed to the subject. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s great advice. And actually relating to kind of checking in a bit more about your career. Something that I do, myself, I found really valuable actually I sort of did it by chance in the early days is every year I write like an annual diary. I’m not a diariser every day. But once a year, I write like a bullet pointed diary, looking back at the past year and saying what happened? What are the good bits? What were the bad minutes from a life perspective, but also from a career perspective? And I give myself sort of like a mark out of 10 in my career and in life, and it’s just really interesting to look back year on year and just sort of like track those changes. And each year based upon what I’ve read, I then write down what I want to do this year that kind of just tries to do more of the stuff I like and less of the stuff I don’t like. And that’s definitely influenced me. It’s definitely helped me to kind of actually to stop doing stuff I just didn’t enjoy. Last four years I have done this thing and I still don’t like this thing and I still struggle, the same problems. It’s time to move on and to learn everything and you know. So that kind of annual diaries certainly helped me. Yeah. It might, I guess, it might others.  

André   

Yeah, that sounds like great advice. Yeah my wife, actually when I was in Montreal, the CBD Secretariat, so this is between 2011 and 2015. So, not that long ago, she advised me to do something similar. So just to kind of write out, you know, where you plan to be in one year and three year and five years time, and at the time, I sort of wrote it down. And in the beginning, it just seemed incredibly ambitious, but I kind of did it anyway. And then looking back on it, it’s, you know, I achieved quite a lot of those things and it wasn’t that ambitious, after all, and it’s probably helped to write them down. You know, I think it did sort of give me some, I think that was when I started getting a more defined direction. 

Nick   

It’s like envisaging thing. Yeah.  

André   

Yeah, exactly.  

Nick   

Really interesting. We have a task in our course, actually, where it’s like a thought exercise like we say five years from now you bump into a colleague, or a classmate, whoever might be at a conference, at a meeting, let’s say CBD for you. And they say to you, hey, Andre, good to see, you know, how’s your career going? And your answer is my career’s going great. And then the question is, well, what’s going on to make your career feel like it’s going absolutely great. Like place yourself in that picture right then and there? Who are you working for? What sort of stuff are you doing? What might your job title be? Like just play with that idea, and allow yourself to be in the future? Don’t worry about how realistic it is, you know. Don’t worry about how you’re going to get there. Just be excited you know, and then try and find excitement… that sounds really similar to great advice from your wife. Yeah. So you’re a podcast host now, too. You run The Case for Conservation Podcast? 

André   

Yeah, very recently.  

Nick   

Yeah, quite a new podcast which is really exciting, too. We need more conservation podcasts out there. So, you know, it’s great. Welcome to the throng. What is the podcast? Tell us what is The Case for Conservation Podcast and why did you feel it was needed?  

André   

Yeah. So first I want to acknowledge something which I’ve been meaning to acknowledge in writing to you, which is the remarkable similarity in our logos. Well, I mean, they’re not that similar but there’s a design element there, which I think is we had something similar in mind, which I found very interesting. And I had never seen your logo.  

Nick   

Yeah, we’ve heard that before. Yeah. 

André   

So I really like it. Yeah. So the podcast is kind of came about, I find in my field, especially, I guess, in the conservation science side of things and the way that conservation scientists relate to the public, very often the message is not complete, and or oversimplified. And I just felt like there were a few questions that need to be asked. And as I started jotting, those questions down the list grew. You know, questions that I wanted to ask people who also felt that there were some gaps there, or some inconsistencies or lack of clarity, and I want to just kind of get people in discussion to talk about them and to clarify them, really. I’m sure your next question is going to be what are some examples of that.  

Nick   

Yep. What sort of topics do you cover?  

André   

Yeah, so some sort of more contemporary and others more, you know, timeless issues, I guess, perhaps the best way best examples to give are ones that are coming up and have passed in episodes. One, which had been bothering me for a while is so indigenous and local knowledge is a very important part of conservation. And it’s being recognised as a very important part of conservation these days. But what I wanted to know is in the scientific realm, you have peer review as a screening mechanism, you know, to sort the wheat from the chaff. But if you’re going to be incorporating indigenous and local knowledge into the same kind of assessments, like the biodiversity assessments that I mentioned earlier on, then what kind of screening mechanism do you have for indigenous and local knowledge. Because I just had this I had this kind of concern that as important as it is, it might be being brought into the fold without any vetting process, you know, just kind of being treated as worthy. You know, whether or not it actually is. The word controversial pops up every now and again. I’m not doing this for the sake of being controversial but these are kind of questions that are a little bit controversial. I think that’s very often why they’re not dealt with, you know, they’re kind of skirted rather than being dealt with head on. So that was a bit of a long explanation. But that’s one example. And there’s a guy who I hope to interview next month or in January about that and he’s an expert in the field. And then there are others, which are not really bugbears of my own, but just in discussing things with other people, these subjects have have come up. And one example is, there’s a pair of Californian scientists who have been writing recently about how we need to take bigger risks in conservation and not worry so much about unintended consequences. And Michelle Marvier is the woman’s name who I’ll be interviewing, actually in about 10 days time and she and Pete Caraver who’s quite a famous Californian conservation biologist. They’re kind of asking this question and questioning whether we’re taking precautionary principle a little bit too far. And that’s kind of the premise. 

Nick   

That’s, I’ll be listening to that one. That sounds really fascinating. Yeah. Why might conservationists be precautious? And I guess, you know, things like donor funding plays quite a lot into that, they don’t, obviously donors need to be able to deliver against what they say they’re going to do and reputation if they fail been scared of failure, that’s going to be really, really interesting topic.  

André   

I think they’re also talking about not just the practice, but also the science behind it. I think that, you know, they’re sort of they’re saying that the theory is a bit of overcautious as well. And given the ways in which the world is changing and also given the, the fact that we’re much more savvy now than we were, you know, in the 1980s and 90s, we should be taking some bigger risks, because there’s also risk in not doing anything about something. So invasive alien species and genetic modification are two things that come up quite a lot in that discussion, but it’s not just confined to those.   

Nick   

Yeah, interesting. Fascinating. Before we move on to go wrapping up the big questions. How have you found podcasting so far as someone who’s fairly new to the block? Is it something is it what you expected? Are you enjoying it? 

André   

Yeah, I’m enjoying it, I think it’s more or less what I expected. I’m only putting out one episode a month. So in between episodes, I sort of forget about the podcast a little bit. And I’ve been toying with the idea of making them a little bit more regular. I think some of the sort of perceptions that jump out. One is that it takes a lot more time and effort to set up than expected. And even though I’ve been warned of that, I fell foul of it. Yeah it’s hard to explain why it takes as long as it does, but I’m sure you if you can remember back to when you started, you probably remember something. 

Nick   

Yeah, editing. Yeah. 

André   

Yeah and just getting just all the little bits and pieces of you know, getting a website set up and all that. All very enjoyable stuff. I guess that my biggest struggle was that I needed to do it after hours. If I didn’t have a day job, then it would have been pure joy. But it was always done, you know, late at night or early in the morning or when I wasn’t supposed to be doing it.  

Nick   

Says the man who’s talking at nearly midnight local time now I should probably reference it to those who are listening.  

André   

It’s a weekend. 

Nick   

Real trooper but yeah. We normally wrap up the Conservation Careers Podcast by just asking some very open some fairly big questions just to hear about, you know, what’s important to you and also your thoughts on various topics. So one I quite like to ask and I will ask it now is if I could sort of make you a global tsar for a day, someone who can act one new law, one new decree whatever it might be a new piece of legislation even or a policy, maybe that would make a huge impact on the planet, you know, particularly to wildlife and conservation, you know, what law might you make, might you enact? 

André   

I think that, you know, when I was younger, I was quite idealistic. I thought that if we just gave people the right message, then everyone would realise how important it is to conserve, and everything would change. And I think communication is an issue. But I  think there are certain areas where change is easily possible and other areas where it’s really not. And I think one sort of low hanging fruit although it’s not that low hanging, but to answer the question would be to do with perverse incentives, and especially subsidies given to unsustainable practices, like unsustainable forestry and unsustainable fisheries. And this goes beyond biodiversity, you know, goes into the energy sector and affecting climate change, and all that kind of thing. So this is maybe a bit broader than what you were after. But I guess you could apply this to the national scale or whatever scale. You know, there are structures in place, and there are entire industries and, you know, working class people dependent on those industries. So you’d have to create alternatives, obviously, in order not to impact on people’s livelihoods. But I think that that is an area where we’re overdue for action and for change, and I think the more people are speaking out against it, the more the tide is turning against it. You know things which are not really helping anyone except for the industries themselves. Yeah, I think that that’s enacting legislation and putting policy into place that would change the way that subsidies and the disincentives that they cause that would be, in my estimation, perhaps the most effective way to make a big change in a relatively short period of time.  

Nick   

Yeah, that’s great. And also we are currently I mean, it’s the 6th of November 2020 as we’re talking right now today. We are right on the balance of the US elections. We’re waiting to hear whether Trump or Biden got in and where things are going. Donald Trump is well known as not being a great supporter for the climate change agreement, the Paris Agreement and other biodiversity related agreements that are out there. If you happen to be in a lift with Donald Trump, you’ve got a minute going down from the top floor to the bottom floor and you wanted to try and convince him that biodiversity or wildlife or nature or whatever you want to call it is important and he should care about it. What might you say to him or someone like him? 

André   

If you’ll allow me I’ll answer that question in two parts. I think that there’s something that I would say to someone like him. But him in particular, I have come to this conclusion fairly recently, after listening to a lot of discussion about him and the way that he does things. I think that content actually doesn’t play very much of a role in his narrative. It’s all about personality and sort of tribalism and what he’s against, rather than what he’s for. I honestly think that he in particular, and anyone too much like him is a little bit of a lost cause to be very honest. But if you’re talking about sort of one of his supporters, you know, someone who’s sincere about supporting him, because I don’t, I’m personally I’m airing my political views here. But one thing I don’t believe Trump is, is sincere. I think it’s one of his, perhaps his biggest flaw. But speaking to someone who believes in him sincerely, again, it’s kind of the content issue kind of falls away a little bit, because I think that what’s really critical is listening to people like that, and kind of getting into a space where they treat you like you’re not, which is just going to break down the barrier between you and them. Because I think that that kind of thinking that he’s promoting is close to discussion. You know, you can’t even have a discussion that the discussions ended before it’s begun. So the first step there is to kind of break down those barriers and to get people to realise that you’re both human beings, and you have things in common, and you actually care about the same things fundamentally. And I think from there, once you kind of open that door, then you can kind of start talking about almost anything. Once you establish trust, I guess trust is really the key word then you can talk about just about anything. So I sort of sidestep that question a little bit, Nick. But hopefully, that’s sort of a semi useful answer.  

Nick   

Absolutely. The left money to break mid-flight? But that’s fine. That’s absolutely fine. Yeah, who knows? Andre it’s been really nice to get to know you a little bit and talk to you. Great to kind of connect. If people want to find out a bit more about you, your work, perhaps particularly The Case for Conservation Podcast, where should we send them?  

André   

I’m not really on social media, except for LinkedIn. So if anyone’s on LinkedIn, they can find me there. I’d be happy to connect. And then as far as the podcast is concerned, the website is www.case4conservation.com. 

Nick   

Great, okay. And we’ll provide links from our description as we always do. Thank you again, Andre. Take care. Keep in touch. And yeah, if you’re listening, guys, I’ll encourage you to listen to The Case for Conservation Podcast.  

André  

Thanks very much for having me Nick. 

Nick   

Okay, well I hope you enjoyed that everyone. If you did then please do hit that subscribe button to get notified when new episodes are live and also give the ratings it really helps us to get in front of more people. If you enjoy the interviews, we’ve collected the best advice from over 400 professional conservationists into a free eBook, which you can download from the bottom of our website. And finally, if you’ve got any questions or suggestions for the podcast, please tweet them to @ConservCareers. We’d love to hear from you. Okay, till next time, guys, this is Nick signing out. 

 

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