Sunday, June 12, 2011

Balancing Nature and Commerce? By Kris Hoellen

Hi all, my name is Kris Hoellen and I work for The Conservation Fund. As a bit of background, The Conservation Fund is a national non-profit, established in 1985 and chartered under a dual mission of both conserving land and water resources, and promoting sustainable economic development. While the Fund has been exceedingly successful in conserving land, over 7 million acres since inception, given its dual charter, we also actively promote the concept of balancing nature and commerce in the areas where we work. But, what is a balanced approach? I have had the privilege of working for regulators, the regulated (specifically, infrastructure proponents) and conservationists, and frequently am asked that question. I would be curious as to your thoughts on this subject – is there such a thing as a balanced approach, what does it look like - what would Raff say is a balanced approach?

Additionally, given my own background, I am a proponent of working within the system, if you will, to achieve positive outcomes, but recognize the role that environmental activists play to effectuate positive change. Raff struggles a bit with his philosophy of compromise versus that of his girlfriend’s full attack mode or ‘aggressive polemics’ as he noted when it comes to the environment. Where do you fall on the spectrum and what are the pros and cons of both approaches?

Looking forward to the discussion!


Magdalena said...

I definately think working within the system to promote positive change is ideal. Yet sometimes it seems easier to get things done if you are working as an outsider because there are less people to navigate through. In the end, I think it is when both people from the inside and the outside get together to promote change that the most can be accomplished.

Mark said...

Hi Kris,

I am happy you are kicking off this section, I am sure you will be more diplomatic and thoughtful than me! Magdalena, got it right working within the system is "ideal." I think Wilson presented a bit of a straw man here with the choices. The "Gaian" activists were pretty unlikable (no manners, cowardly, and no judgment), whereas even the most rapacious developers were presented as both more thoughtful and eloquent (e.g., his uncle Cyrus). Yet ultimately the Harvard idealists were at least relatively harmless blowhards. I am thinking the ants in the previous section might have been more well-rounded characters.

Mark said...

I was rereading Dr. Bell's interesting blog and it occurred to me (as alluded to in the previous comment) Raff actually has the best qualities of an ant worker. He plans ahead, sacrifices individual happiness for the good of his society and habitat, and he works ridiculously hard and conscientiously seemingly without any vices for the good of his species.

As a former Harvard graduate student I have to add the disclaimer, this was not the norm when I was there in the 1990s.

Kris Hoellen said...

Magdalena makes a good point, it is often easier to work on the outside. I wonder how often we tend towards the outside insisting the issue is too important, when really it just may be an easier route? I think when we can work within the system and achieve positive environmental stewardship or sustainability outcomes that are than institutionalized, and all entities feel relatively positive about the outcome, progress is being made! Were you surprised about Raff's employment choice?