When I was about sixteen, my family went to the Memphis Zoo, which is a really cool zoo, but they had this really interesting display about conservation in their cat area.
Essentially the display takes you through a conservation project in China. You play the role of the ecologist and government officials tasked with saving both the native forests and the tigers who make it home.
The catch is that right next to the forest is a medium size village that continues to grow. The village needs access to the forest for food, and they cut down the forest to create farmland.
The game presents you the same options that the conservation team had. The plans either favored conservation entirely, allowed the villagers to do what they wished without restriction, or attempted to skirt a happy medium. Every decision led to a flash point where another choice between the three showed up.
16-year-old me thought this game was easy, always save the tigers and you win, right?
I’m not claiming to be very social now, but 16-year-old me did not like people at all. I believe that year the world population hit 7 billion, the tiger population in this scenario was only at 3,500 individuals. The decisions were easy to me, but I still lost.
I tried it again but the same thing happened, I believe back then, I just gave it a solid “Whatever” and moved on.
While trying to think of a blog post topic, I actually looked up the program in question, and found the key, i.e. what decisions they wanted you to pick.
Apparently I wasn’t very good at paying attention back then either, because the reason I had lost was because in my complete restriction of the villagers from the forest, they grew resentful, destroyed the forest, and caused the tigers to be further endangered. I don’t have time to go through every aspect of this 12 minute simulation, but it was much more complex than I initially thought.
Sometimes it wanted to you to be harsh on the villagers, other times to do nothing at all, and rarely there was a decision that was a compromise. I also wondered who the hell thought of something this intricate and delicate?
The answer is actually nobody, because this story actually happened, and the team set to solve the issues actually succeeded, by navigating the decisions in the same way the game would have you do.
They started off too harsh then slowly worked with the villagers to get to a compromise, then in 1999 China started a project to reforest 5% of it’s entire landmass, and as of now, they have planted enough trees to cover the entirety of New Mexico. This has allowed the tigers to flourish far away from villages, who now use the old forest as farmland.
It must have been an extremely tenuous balance to maintain, but in the end it paid off, and everyone was happy.
See it doesn’t always have to be extinction stories!
But at the same time when we want to save the animals we must also consider the human element, and the needs of the people around the animals.
Anyway, times up, gotta go, just a haiku and then I’m through.
Woods falling so low
The grass malignant and dead
Rebirth on the way