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Resurrecting the conservation movement

“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family”

- Mitt Romney in acceptance of the Republican nomination for U.S. President, August 30, 2012


Conservationists are losing the battle to protect nature because they are failing to connect with the hearts, anxieties, and minds of a large segment of the American public. If conservationists are to move beyond their current base of support, they must reach out and connect to new audiences across the political, economic, and social spectra. Here, we present data from two national surveys examining attitudes about the protection of nature. These surveys show that the public does not believe a tradeoff necessarily exists between the health of the economy and the health of the environment. Moreover, certain groups, including those who do not identify themselves as environmentalists, find benefits to people to be a convincing rationale for protecting nature, and a better rationale than the intrinsic value of nature. Based on these findings, we recommend conservationists vigorously challenge claims that environmental protection will damage the economy. We also recommend a new message frame that emphasizes the value of protecting nature in terms of benefits to people, and to highlight the connection between protecting land and water and preserving their immediate quality of life and their children’s quality of life.

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Correspondence to Michelle Marvier.

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Marvier, M., Wong, H. Resurrecting the conservation movement. J Environ Stud Sci 2, 291–295 (2012).

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  • Conservation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Public opinion