I for one am not ready — based on this one event, whose impacts and causes are as yet unknown — to abandon the idea of conservation working with the energy industry. In fact, although we have never engaged with BP or other energy companies on their offshore Gulf drilling, maybe we should have — we might have been able to help site their activities to reduce the risk to the Gulf’s globally significant habitats.
I have to admit: My friend’s concern about “conspiring with the enemy” irked me. This is not an issue of environment versus energy – people need both. “Working with” does not mean “selling out.” Anyone who drives a car is a supporter of the oil industry — should we propose no one drives?
Look, I know that energy extraction is sometimes environmentally damaging, just as roads, ports, biofuels and even desert solar panels can be. In fact, Conservancy scientists engage with the energy industry precisely because that industry does often harm the environment.
But the point is: We need energy and we also need nature — we have to figure out how to do this energy thing with minimal environmental damage. We have to find the right energy policies and regulations that help meet the United States’ need for fuel and protect our natural ecosystems and the
livelihoods they provide.
And at the Conservancy, our scientists work with our policy experts to not just do science, but to help inform policy. The reason I love my job (and I even love getting angry e-mails about “selling out”) is because we do science that is in the thick of it — science that uses our on-the-ground data and experience to understand impacts and tradeoffs and advise the most creative and pragmatic policy thinkers I have ever worked with, all in the service of nature and the benefits it gives us.