We don’t mean unbridled optimism in the face of the grimmest adversity. We do mean an adaptive, realistic optimism — a ‘glass half-full’ optimism that fuels the drive to achieve high-stakes goals, and which nourishes innovation and persistence. Yes, we do worry about the future too; but it only helps us prepare for or avert adversity. For some, ‘defensive pessimism’ can be just as powerful a motivator for achieving goals as optimism.
Our optimism is tempered by knowledge of what we can and can’t change. How we see the future or feel motivated to change what is wrong is intrinsically linked to probabilities, how we realistically perceive risk and respond to chance or unexpected events.
By keeping a positive, open mind, but bearing in mind sound evidence, we are more likely to spot and seize change opportunities that come by. Our long-term goals are clear but we are totally open to the possibility of many different ways of getting there. We continue to explore new territories, ready to seize new unexpected ways or hidden opportunities to achieve change.
The lines from George Bernard Shaw’s play Back To Methuselah (1921, part 1, act 1) are good to remember (but we substitute ‘we’, meaning us all, for ‘I’):
You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’
But I (we) dream things that never were; and I (we) say, ‘Why not?’
And, we know from history that change, when it comes, can come quickly. We also know only large community movements, once sparked, can bring about such changes. We have extraordinary technologies at our fingertips for communication today that never existed 30 years ago when ARCS began. Now social media provides the greatest tools ever invented to mobilize resources in times of need and to galvanize people behind a common cause. Social change agents such as GetUp and Change.org can be remarkably powerful allies.
On arresting climate change
There is now growing international consensus that the Earth’s meager remaining primary forests, especially tropical rainforest, should be protected. Much remains to be done to ensure countries, corporations and non-government organisations commit to zero gross deforestation targets by 2020 (rather than the zero ‘net’ deforestation proposed by the World Wildlife Fund and supported by delegates from 67 countries at the Ninth Conference of Parties to the Convention of biological Diversity in 2008). Zero ‘net’ can amount to nothing much as it could allow clearing of primary forest that is balanced by planting. The European Commission has a target of reducing gross deforestation to 50% of current levels by 2020. Our work internationally is directed at helping achieve universal consensus (Check our International Forests Program).
On restoring forests
There is also a growing global momentum to restore forests that have been lost.
The Convention on Biological Diversity has set time-bound targets (Aichi Biodiversity Targets) that include halting extinctions and deforestation as well as achieving restoration of 15% degraded lands by 2020. Our Springbrook restoration project is one of 12 international Case Studies supporting Principles and Guidelines for helping 168 signatory countries of the Convention achieve these targets.
We know that we have to help species move between isolated protected areas — Australia’s National Wildlife Corridors Plan is a visionary plan to achieve this at a continental scale. Initiatives such as the Great Eastern Ranges conservation corridor initiative and Gondwana Link, together with our Springbrook Rescue project are at the forefront of recovery strategies nationally and internationally.
On new helpful monitoring technologies
Exciting transformative technologies are now emerging that allow unprecedented analysis and three-dimensional, high-resolution mapping of forests capable of detecting small changes in forest canopy structure and composition at landscape scales. The initiative (Carnegie Airborne observatory, CAO) is championed by Greg Asner from the Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.
On arresting species extinctions
At least on one front, evidence suggests relict species in refugial mountain habitats may not be as vulnerable to extinction as past modeling predicts. If modeling scales were changed to match those of real habitats we may not be so pessimistic about the plight of our ancient mountain-top treasures. Our focus then becomes protection and restoration rather than abandonment of hope or adoption of riskier translocation strategies promoted by many.
Australian Rainforest Conservation Society Inc PO Box 2111, Milton QLD 4064, Australia
telephone: 61 7 3368 1318 email: firstname.lastname@example.org