Green@Google: M. Sanjayan

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 15.06.2010

>>Alan Eustace: It's nice to see so many kids in the audience because this is your planet.
And if we don't take care of it then it's not gonna be good for you and if you don't
take care of it then your kids are not gonna have a great planet to live on.
And our speaker today is lead scientist at the Nature Conservatory. He's dedicated his
career right now to-to basically saving our planet and telling us a lot about what the
issues that face it.
There are a lot of challenges from the water, to the air, to the survival of species, to
global warming, all these kinds of things, and it's really important that the best scientists
and the best minds and best kids understand what's happening to our planet, because you
can change it. It's early enough to change the things that we're doing.
So with that, let me introduce Sanjayan. Please take it away, sir.
>>Sanjayan: Thanks, Alan. Very kind of you.
Alright guys, thank you. And thanks very much for having me out here, particularly John
Fitch for being persistent--persistent enough to navigate the Nature Conservancy and figure
out how to invite us and who to invite.
And then Alan Eustace, thank you so much for the introduction.
I'm gonna just start by playing you a one minute video and if you get bored with my
talk then you just take the video and that's all you need to do, right?
The video just played on Discovery Channel's big Life series. So this is a public service
announcement that played when Life was, was airing. And it's still playing on--on--on
[sound of wildlife]
[guitar music]
>>male video narrator: Life, an everyday miracle of survival.
Today the future of all life on earth hangs in the balance.
[guitar music]
What happens next depends on us.
[guitar music]
[song I'm Yours by Jason Miraz]
Well you done done me and you bet I felt it I tried to be chill but you're so hot that
I melted I fell right through the cracks
Now I'm trying to get back Before the cool done run out
I'll be giving it my bestest And nothing's going to stop me but divine
intervention I reckon it's again my turn to win some or
learn some
But I won't hesitate no more, no more It cannot wait, I'm yours
Well open up your mind and see like me Open up your plans and damn you're free
Look into your heart and you'll find that the sky is yours
So please don't, please don't, please don't There's no need to complicate
'Cause our time is short This oh, oh, this is our fate, I'm yours
do, do, do, do,
>>Sanjayan: Alright. So now that's all you have to remember and then you can go away.
Well thanks for havin' me here again. My name is Sanjayan, I'm the lead scientist for the
Nature Conservancy.
I have some ties to California. I went to my graduate school here at UC Santa Cruz and
about oh eight or nine years ago I joined the Nature Conservancy. And eventually had
this great job where I travel around the world, learn about our projects, and try to bring
the best ideas we have in science and in how we do our work to audiences like you around
the world.
So that's sort of the short version of what I do. Thank you.
That one?
>>female voice: That one.
>>Sanjayan: Yeah. She said, "Don't touch one of these buttons."
And so immediately then I'm like, "Okay which one is that?"
So I wanna tal--start with something a little different.
These, does anyone know what these are? These are called?
You know what they are, John?
>>male in audience: Yeah, they're aboriginal dot paintings.
>>Sanjayan: They're aboriginal dot painting. There're called song lines and that's exactly
So the aboriginal people had this great way of interpretat--interpreting the--the world
they see around them. And then they put it up in abstract art like this. Now to us it
looks like art, but to them it had symbol and meaning. And it's not just a map through
space it's also a map through time.
It brings the spiritual and material world together, it has a directionality to it.
So some of these round circles for example mean water holes. That's the simple explanation.
But it would take an aboriginal person who understands these song lines to really interpret
them for you.
It's the original version of Google Earth, if you like.
So these paintings are found all over Australia and very recently we started a project in
Australia. We started our program there.
And our Program Manager who's Australian went out there and he was talking to some aboriginal
people and he said, "Well I'm here and I'm here one of the things the Nature Conservancy
does we help you map your environment. We help you place nature within context of your
lives. We call it the habitat assessment."
So he said, "We're here to do this habitat assessment," and these aboriginal people kinda
looked at him kinda funny and said, "Well, you're a little late because we sort of already
have it." And he pointed up to the wall.
And sure enough they have, up there, their own interpretation of how they see the planet.
And it's just as legitimate as how we see it.
So that's sort of our, my--my--my point in telling you this is that for as long as people
have been on the planet they've been interested in mapping the planet and understanding our
relationship to it. Okay?
So fast forward to today. Today the Nature Conservancy's releasing this new book called
The Atlas of Global Conservation and there's some copies in the back, but it kinda looks
like this.
And this is the first time I get to hold it up and say, "Here's where we're releasing
it." So Google Headquarters here becomes one of the spots that we release this book.
So what is the Atlas of Global Conservation? Well, it's basically song lines for planet
earth just in Western scientific language. I guess that's the best way to put it.
What the Atlas has is a series of maps; maps that you have never seen before because the
data has never been put in one place before.
And it's maps of all the habitat types on earth: coral reefs, fresh water, forests,
caves. If you wanna find out the best state in the U.S. for caves, if you're really into
caves, you can find it out in the Atlas. If you wanna find the best caves on the planet
you can find that out in the Atlas as well. If you wanna compare how cool those caves
are with the caves that you might go to you can do that on the Atlas as well.
And it goes on and on.
So all the habitat types on earth are mapped out there, but also species diversity. What's
the best place for fresh water fish? If you're into fly fishing you can look at the Atlas
and you can find out what's the best place –
>>male voice in audience: No.
>>Sanjayan: for fishing –
>>male voice in audience: No.
>>Sanjayan: and not tell anyone else.
Right, good point.
It's been adjusted slightly to keep the best parts secret.
But let's say you're interested in wildlife trade or interested in something that's going
wrong with the planet like deforestation or maybe habitat loss, or you wanna find out
what's the habitat that's been most impacted by our activities you can do that on the Atlas
as well.
Turns out its grasslands, grasslands are the habitat type on earth that are most converted
by human activity. Makes sense; we like to, where grass grows we like to put agriculture,
So you can do that.
This map for example is coral reefs. It tells you coral reef diversity. It's a map that
you've never seen before because no one has ever pulled that information together in one
One of the authors, by the way, of the Atlas if your more interested in the Atlas you can
definitely bug her, it's Jen Molnar, she's one of my colleagues and --
she worked for, actually she worked for five years. We tell people we worked for three
years 'cause we want to like think that we're fast, but it really took a long time; so 10
scientists working for at least three years to pull all this information together.
Now talking about information, don't worry kids it's not too bad, I'll go through this
very quickly.
The, I'm gonna read each one.
So the biggest problem with doing the Atlas was guess what? It was getting that data,
It was getting the data because the data existed in so many different places. And guess what?
No one wanted to share that data.
So scientists are really good at going out and collecting data and they're really bad
at sharing it because they think one day eventually they will publish it. Most of the time it
just sits there.
And so one of the things our team had to do was, they were not just scientists, they were
negotiators. They had to literally fly to places and convince people to put it all together
for the common good.
So for me that was really the biggest breakthrough the Atlas does, it brings 70 partners all
together in a way that they are willing to share global data for all our benefits and
all their benefits as well.
So big thanks to them.
So that's all I wanted to really say about the Atlas and how we did it and the importance
of it.
You should know that every map on the Atlas today goes live on our Website and we're just,
we were in discussions here with Google and so we're gonna work with you guys and the
tools that you have to integrate our data and the Atlas data into the latest and greatest
stuff that Google's providing. So this is, this is just sort of a first step of getting
it out there.
Fair enough. I had nothing to do with it because I if I did I would have probably blown it,
but Jen did and others did.
So I'm gonna talk to you about conservation now and how the Atlas has helped guide the
conservation work we do. And I'm gonna tell you three stories, that's basically it and
if you can remember one of them that's great.
So the first story I wanna tell you is about deserts and conservation of deserts.
Now when you think about deserts you mostly think about big, vast, open lands that are
not really important. It turns out about a third of the world surface are covered in
deserts. And guess what? A billion people live in deserts. And most of them are really
poor. So very, very high levels of poverty are in deserts.
There's not a great way to make a living if you live in a desert. Recently, well actually
a couple years ago, I had the chance to go and do a journey that I've wanted to do for
a long time. And that is walk across one of these deserts.
And the desert that I walked across was the oldest and driest desert on the planet and
it's called the Namib. The Namib is a true, old sand desert. It's been there forever and
ever and ever and there are few indigenous communities that still live there.
And so we walked the Namib but we walked it with camels because we needed something to
carry our stuff. We couldn't carry all the water and all the food that we needed.
Now we couldn't ride these camels. This is a crucial mistake that we made. So we were
so poor that we had to get second-hand camels to make this journey. And what we didn't realize
in the fine print of buying a second hand camel, they were not ride-able. So mistake
number one is the second hand camels could not be ridden.
But we had and we, and we, and so you see six camels here, we actually started with
eight. But one got eaten by a lion before the journey even began [laughs] that was done
with the camel. He went, he went very happily, don't worry kids.
And the second one got pregnant [laughs]. This is really true actually. [laughs]
The third one actually developed a bit of a limp and as you can see he's not carrying
So, so the camels were carrying our stuff and it took us about 20 days to go across
this desert.
Now I'm doing this with these four guys. They're African guys and they run a small organization
called Save The Rhino Trust. And even though they're a tiny group they're in charge of
doing conservation on an enormous piece of real estate; basically a desert twice the
size of Yosemite National Park, to put it in perspective; enormous, enormous landscapes.
And these guys are the protectors of this landscape. Some it's a national park it's
called the Skeleton Coast National Park. You can go and visit it. Some of it is not, it's
just open land that still belongs to community.
If you wanna get lost, good place to go.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt went to have their kid over here, right? So just kinda
gives you an idea where it is.
But these are the guys that took me on this walk. And they hadn't done this trip either.
They were like, "You wanna go across the desert? Why do you wanna do that? No one goes across
the desert."
So we did the first time that--that desert had ever been crossed on foot was our journey
and we had National Geographic come along and there's a whole story about it, but I--I
won't go into that.
I wanna point out one little thing. These guys are the sole providers for their communities.
They're the guys who wear that uniform, threadbare as it is, with pride. They make a little bit
money from the few tourists who've come there and they take that money back in their village.
They make about a hundred dollars a month.
But when they go into their communities and I've gone into communities with them, they
are the big men in town. So they take their job very seriously and they care about this
place very much.
And what do they care about especially of this place? Well they care about this animal.
Do you know what that is?
>>child in audience: A rhino.
>>Sanjayan: A rhino. What kind of rhino?
>>child in audience: White one.
>>Sanjayan: No. It's not a white rhino it's a black rhino, great.
It's a black rhino. And there's only 3,500 black rhinos on the planet. And the best population
of black rhinos on the planet lives here; it lives in Namibia. It's the only place that
black rhinos are free ranging.
They don't, they can just walk out there on landscape and not International Park. It's
this astonishing thing.
And here's the more amazing thing: there--there's never been a poaching incident of black rhinos
in Namibia in the last 15 years. And that's amazing because each of those rhino horns
would bring you about sixty thousand dollars. That's a lot of money, so there's a lot of
pressure on rhinos.
South Africa has lost rhinos; Zimbabwe's lost rhinos; Kenya's lost rhinos; Namibia zero.
And it's all because of this guy who's sitting next to me and he's actually telling me, "Pick
your tree man, pick your tree." Because this rhino by the name of Speedy, and that's the
real name of the rhino, is about to charge us.
That's really what he told me. He's like, "Pick your tree. Pick your tree." And I'm
looking around and I'm like --
Alright. So one thing happened on this journey that I wanna tell you about which was kind
of amazing.
So we're on this walk and we're going down this long journey and all of a sudden out
in the horizon far, far away I see this little white dot. And this white dot kinda attracts
us and flat--flat land like that. And all of a sudden the whole team starts kinda moving
towards it.
This is on the very last day of our journey, by the way. We're one day from the ocean;
we've been on the road walking for about 19 days and we had finished most of our food,
particularly there was no more protein left, so we were on sort of male--me, maze diet,
really just carbohydrates.
And for us we could handle it, we've got a little body fat, but for the Africans they
craved that protein; they wanted the meat. No meat for a long time and you saw the whole
line sort of turn towards this white dot and pretty soon we're all standing there and everyone
was wondering what I had in my box, we're standing around an egg. It's not the same
egg, by the way.
But an egg and it's like this on the ground. And pretty soon all of us are crowding around
it just like this and we're amazed. Do you know what kind of egg this is?
>>child in audience: Ostrich.
>>Sanjayan: It's an ostrich egg, right. So an ostrich had laid this egg and they're ostriches
they'll lay and they'll come back, they'll lay more or they'll abandon the egg, we don't
But we're in a national park now in the Skeleton Coast National Park, and in a national park
you not supposed to do what? You're not supposed to take anything or touch anything, right?
And we didn't. We took pictures. We looked. We oohed and ahhed at it. It was kind of amazing
thing; this egg perfectly placed out there in the middle of the desert. Again, this is
not the same egg.
But then we all picked up our--our backpacks and started walking off and I looked back
and the four African dudes who were with me, they're still looking at the egg.
And they're all like in a circle. And they, they speak this clicking language, they'd
click away, it's a clicking tongue like the sound bushman. You see that movie Gods Must
Be Crazy, they-they do that clicking, like [clicks tongue], like that. And they're clicking
away at this thing. And I can't really understand Damara, which is the language they're speaking.
But I pretty much understand. I wonder if there's actually a Google translator for Damara?
But, get to work on that.
But, if there was, this is what they were saying, they would probably say, "Distract
the white guys. Gather some sticks and we'll have a 24 egg omelet in a heartbeat."
We didn't say anything, we kept walking. And I looked back and what was amazing is each
of these guys picked up their camel and kept walking. And pretty soon that egg is out there
on its own.
And as we did this journey it kinda struck me that even though they're very, very poor
and they are in a completely different economic class than I am, for them that still represents
something that is important to conserve. For them that's their source of livelihood, that's
what they do. And they took their job in the middle of nowhere, no one's watching them,
incredibly seriously.
I--I thought that that kind of ethic could only be possible in countries once you've
reached a certain income level. And what I saw that day out in Namibia really changed
my mind about the ability of local communities to embrace concepts that I really thought
were for the--the well off and privileged.
My second story I'm gonna take you somewhere else. Let's see where we go.
Those are forests of the world, tropical forests in particular. So we're gonna go to Borneo.
We're gonna go to a forest up here called the Wahea Forest.
And Borneo's a really neat place. It has lots and lots of forests, but the forests are under
a great deal of threat. Their in threat from palm oil. Oil of palm got planted in huge
plantations and that creates enormous, enormous problem for the forests there.
One of the problems that happens is as the wet soil dries up it releases huge amounts
of carbon dioxide. The cutting of these native forests allows Indonesia to be ranked in the
top five countries for releasing greenhouse [bad audio] which then contributes of course
to climate change as you all know.
Forest burning is a big, big deal for us. But it's very hard to find because palm oil
is very lucrative. If you go home and you look through your cabinet, look at the stuff
that you have; palm oil's in nearly everything; like you'll find it in Chip Ahoy cookies.
You'll find it in soap. You'll find it in all kinds of products you have right now in
your, in your cupboard. And it's not native to Indonesia. Most of it comes from Asia;
it's actually native to West Africa; it was brought over.
So saving these forests is really important, but you don't find a lot of saved forests
when you go out to Indonesia. But this forest you do. It's an amazing place, the Wahea Forest.
So I went out there and you see lots of wildlife; see orangutans like that and you see lots
of great birds.
But then when you come to the edge of the forest you see this; you see these big totem
poles, very scary looking. They're very tall and they have this warrior on it with some
sort of bird or animal on the top and pretty scary and they're always looking outwards;
they're always looking out of the forest not inwards.
And they're basically warning posts that are telling people, "Don't come into this forest.
Danger. This is our forest, stay away. Stay away from this forest."
And when you go in the Wahea Forest it is pretty intact. I mean you see lots of wildlife
there. And I was surprised how this forest survived when all else around it is just a
blight zone. I mean everything else is just blitzed.
Why has this forest survived? And what do these poles, these totem poles have to do
with it? What's the Wahea Forest about? How come it's protected? And he says, "Oh you
gotta talk to the chief of the Wahea." "Great, let's go see the chief."
Now to see the chief you gotta get in the car and you gotta drive back out of the forest
and you gotta go about 40 miles. Now that 40 mile journey literally takes a day because
the roads as so bad. And you go through this burnt out ag-land and burnt out trees and
you eventually get to this village.
And in the village you meet the chief. And this is Chief Tak who's sitting here. He's
a Wahea; he's a Dayak tribesman. And this is a colleague of mine from the Nature Conservancy
who's translating for me. And I make all the pleasant small talk, "How you doin'?" and
he tells me about how wonderful the forest is and why it's so important and how when
he lived in the forest it was all very much more, much cooler than it is now where he
lives and all this sort of stuff.
So the big question came to me and I said, "Well, if you love the forest so much why
do you live out here in this village? Why aren't you living in the forest?"
And he didn't quite understand what I said. And Eric, my--my colleague, had to re-translate
again and said, "Why don't you live in the forest? Why are you living in this village,
half a day or a day drive away from the forest?"
And he kind of looked at me puzzled and he said, "Oh, no. I've always lived here. It's
the forest that's moved."
And that's when it sort of struck me that their forest when he was a kid, the forest
was right around him. That village had never moved. The forest had just moved because it's
been logged all the way up there.
So then the obvious next question was, "Well why have you protected this forest?" And here's
what he said to me, because I was asking, "Well are you gonna do some ecotourism there,
are you gonna try to capture some carbon credits?" I'm thinking, "How do you make money out of
this? How do you pump it back into the system? How do you make it sustainable?"
And he said, "No, no we're not doing anything. We're not even hunting there anymore. We're
just leaving it alone." And it's a big forest, 100,000 acre plus forest.
"Why?" Well he said, "Once the forest goes, we no longer are the--the Wahea people. For
us our entire identify is around that forest. When that forest disappears we will just be
a Dayak and then we'll just be another Indonesian like all the other Indonesian tribes out there.
For us to be the Wahea people we have to have the Wahea Forest."
And for him and his community it had entirely to do with sovereignty. And that was a really
new thing for me to think about; conservation for sovereignty. I hadn't thought about that.
I hadn't thought that people's identity could be so linked that they would wanna protest
their place because it ma--made sense to them because that's who they were, right?
So that's my story about Indonesia and the forest that I went to. And Chief Tak, Chief
Tak by the way just won a big prize from the Indonesia President, the highest environmental
award to be given in Indonesia. He just received it for his work and his community's work for
protecting this forest, not because it was giving them money, but because it defined
who they were as a community.
The last story I wanna tell you guys is a marine story. And this one's about economics.
So I told you about conservation ethics, I told you about sovereignty and now I'm gonna
tell you a little bit about economics.
And I'm gonna take you to, what's this map of?
>>[voices in audience]: Coral reefs.
>>Sanjayan: Coral reefs, great.
So the lighter it is, the less intense the diversity of reefs are. So that's Hawaii,
for example. That's the Caribbean.
But look at this place. Look how dark the color is. So that's the Coral Triangle and
the Coral Triangle is the world's most diverse spot on earth. There's more species in the
Coral Triangle than any other place on the planet.
And of course when you go underwater you see enormous varieties of fish.
You also see lots of cool things like this guy. I had to throw that up there. That's
a pigmy seahorse. And that pygmy sea horse is about the size of my little fingernail.
Not my little finger, my little fingernail. And it's an adult pygmy sea horse. It lives
on the sea fan. It's pretty hard to find. You gotta go right up to it and look really
carefully and then you'll find some of them.
It also had big fish there. So not just diverse fish, but it's one of the few places left
in Asia where you can still find big sharks and big groupers and things like that.
We're actually catching that shark, but we're catching it in the non--traditional way.
Talk about fishing, so I was asked to go and take part in a tagging operation with sharks
and they said, "Well, we're gonna catch over a hundred sharks and put a tag on them and
then release them to find out where they go and how they live."
And I thought, "Well, great. I love fishing so we'd catch these things in the traditional
way [chuckles] which had to do with a line and a rod or something like that and a hook."
But no, we were gonna not hurt these sharks. So they way we were gonna do it is swim up
to them very quietly when they were feeding --
I'm not makin' this up. [chuckles] And then we were gonna put a rope around their tail
[laughs] --
and then the question is, "Well then what?" [laughs]
Well then you try to stay away from the pointy end. [laughs]
But that's literally how we caught these sharks. So we caught actually over 110 sharks; several
species; and we tagged them and to find out where they were going and how they were using
the area.
We also caught some bigger sharks, like tiger sharks, and those ones we actually managed
to put cameras on them and the cameras stay with them for six to eight hours and then
they release and the camera comes to the surface and you have videotape of the shark looking
through the environment through its own eyes.
But because we didn't use hooks, we didn't hurt the sharks. As soon as we released them
they would go back to doing what they liked doing which is looking for food.
Alright, so anyway, sho--sho--show you that.
But in addition to all this amazing wildlife that's in the Coral Triangle, of course, there's
also people. There's 30 million people making a living out of sea, out of fish, right, and
they all live here.
So one place in particular that I wanna focus on is the Solomon Islands.
So the Solomon Islands are these amazing chain of islands and there's, I can tell you lots
and lots of stories about the Solomons, but I won't, I won't do it right now. I'll give
you two little points of, of--of interest.
So the last head hunters of Asia lived in the Solomons. These are people who really
went around scaring other people away essentially from the coast because they wanted to protect
the resources.
It was also the last place that an American that, that Japanese surrendered to an American
after World War II. And it was in, guess when it was? It was 1967 because there was a Japanese
soldier who had hid out in the Solomon Islands; it's a great place to hide out. They had to
actually fly over and drop letters from his mother telling him that the war was over.
Should have been over for 25 years and that he should consider surrendering which--which
thankfully he did.
It's also where President Kennedy swam to shore when his PT109 got, got, got bombed.
And there's a swim in the Solomons that I have done. It's called the, the Kennedy Mile
and the Kennedy Mile is a very fast swim 'cause there's of course lots of sharks around. [laughs]
But they drop you off and you swim to the island that Kennedy, it's called Palm Island
now, the island that he came up on. It's a great place. It's, it's 2,000 islands spread,
sorry, a thousand islands spread over two million square kilometers of ocean, so really
But I told you about head hunters. The Solomons also has the highest diversity of languages;
one of the highest on the planet. There's over a hundred languages spoken in the Solomons
and I didn't take a language class there. A hundred different languages and only half
a million people. And because everyone has their own tribal customs there's a lot of
conflict between communities.
And what do they fight about? Well, they fight about fish.
So there were two big communities and they were at war with one another. And I mean when
I say, "war with one another," they were really at war with one another. They were burning
each others houses, they were threatening one another in very serious sort of ways.
And through the work of the Nature Conservancy, but also because of an enlightened leader,
a local leader in this community, they created a marine protected area between these two
So they took one piece of ocean and they actually said it was "taboo." That was the word they
used. The word "taboo" is actually a Solomon word. It's actually pronounced "tamboo" and
it means "don't go there. Keep out. Stay away."
And what happened when we created this protected area, when we created this protected area,
the protected area is about 110 square kilometers in size, it allowed fish to--to breed.
It allowed all the marine life that had been fished out everywhere else to breed and grow.
And as they bred and grew, they swam out and then the communities could each harvest the--the
over spill if you like. We call it fish banks. So when we go out there we don't talk about
marine protected areas, no one wants to hear that. But when we say "fish banks" people
go, "Oh, what's that?"
Well here's how it works. It's like a savings bank, but it's for fish. And if both of you
agree on this bank it'll allow us to protect the whole area.
Now the question is, does it work?
So this little girl for example has harvested these animals which are actually sea slugs
and they're sold in East Asia dried. And just these three sea slugs will pay her--her--her
tuition for one semester. Just to give you an idea. It really does work because it's
a little bit of money but it makes a huge difference to local communities.
So we helped set up this incredible marine protected area and if any of you ever get
to go to the Solomons it is worth seeing this place. It's called the Arnarvons. The Arnarvons
Marine Community Conservation Area.
But if you go there you will see all the big fish I told you about. You will see sea turtles
and manta rays and big sharks; more sharks than you've seen anywhere else, almost anywhere
else on the planet. And you can see the, you see giant clams that are still giant. So you
really just, the--the diversity of life is great. Well so what? We're the Nature Conservancy
we're supposed to protect nature. Of course the wildlife's gonna do well.
How 'bout the people?
So a few years ago we went and did something frankly not enough conservationists do. We
went to measure the impact of our work on the local communities.
So we did a survey of about 2,200 people. I think it was 230 households that were surveyed.
And we asked them basically simple economic survey questions. How well are they doing?
Guess what? Their income had doubled in that period; had doubled; not just gone up a little
bit; had doubled.
And we used multiple measures of--of well-being from how many kids are going to school, how
diversified is the economy, how are the women doing, they tend to be the marginalized people
in society.
So we measured lots of different ways. We found the same result. So not only did wildlife
do well, but people were doing better as well. All because they now had this fish bank that
allowed them to harvest resources that were coming out it.
Only one data slide and it's one before my last slide. I'll just show that to you just
to give you an idea. So the--the pink line there or the purple line is communities that
associated with a marine protected area.
And the dark blue or black line are communities that don't have a marine protected area. And
you can see, look at income for example, between communities that don't have marine protected
areas and that do. It's essentially doubling in--in size.
Or look at this fish catch, it's not actually fish catch, it's actually one type of-of marine
product and it's called trochus. The trochus shell is very valuable. It's, if you ever
go to Saville Row, if you're James Bond, and you go to Saville Row in England and you get
a really nice shirt, one of the options you'll get asked is whether your want a trochus shell
button. And if you get a trochus shell button it's probably coming from the Solomons.
Notice that zero everywhere else, but here six percent of the households still are able
to go and harvest that. So it makes a big difference.
So here's how I wanna end this talk.
When you think about conservation to you and I it's about saving wildlife. But when you
go outside of frankly the Bay Area, or other really well-to-do places, it becomes about
much more than that. It really becomes about ways of life. It'll become about health, it'll
become about security, economic well-being. It takes on all different tones. And I can
tell you stories for all those examples where health and conservation are linked; or when
economic benefits and conservation are linked.
That I think is the future of the environmental movement. As long as we just talk about cool
animals we're only gonna attract people like you.
But when we start talking about what this can do to people's real lives, then we can
stay up doing conservation at really big scales: two million acres; twenty million acres; big,
big stuff.
We can't do the big stuff unless we could get other people to join in with us. And that's,
that's the key. That's the key; how we talk to people who currently we consider the enemy.
They're not the enemy they're just people just like you and I tryin' to live a better
life. And we can show 'em a different way that connects their livelihood to the environment
we can, we can make it happen.
So here's how I wanna end this talk. Think of this, think of this little thing: as long
as humans have been on this planet we have only been able to see the planet from eye
level, essentially. For three and half million years we've walked around and we've looked
at the planet like this.
If you go to Tanzania there a place called Laetoli; it's a really cool place in Tanzania.
It's where you see these old hominid footprints; they're this size and there's two of 'em and
they walk parallel to one another. And they're three and a half million years old.
The first evidence of humans standing upright or hominids, early primates standing upright
and walking. One was a male probably and one was a female. We can tell because of the size
of the footprint. And one probably carried a baby because the female has a slight tilt
to her and which means she was probably having a baby on her hip or somewhere on her.
And as these footprints go, they stop for a minute and they turn slightly as if they're
looking at something in the distance; the moment of doubt. The first expression of doubt
in humanity recorded on the rocks.
What was the doubt about? Where were they looking? Were they looking at danger? Was
there something out there like a lion or something they were worried about? Or was it opportunity?
Maybe there was a dead animal or food or water source, right? We have only seen the planet
from eye level. And how far can we see?
Well, if you're an ordinary human and you're standing on flat ground you can see about
ten miles. I think its six and a half, something like that. Six and half to ten miles and then
the earth's horizon curves around.
Then in one generation, our generation, my generation and your generation, right, we
see the entire planet all at once. Think about that! I mean it's just actually stunning.
Three and half million years we've been locked to one way of viewing the world and then all
of a sudden we take it for granted, I mean especially kids in the audience, I mean they
really take it for granted. Of course we see the whole planet.
So what are we gonna do with that knowledge? Forty years from now we didn't know, we didn't
know what we were doing to the entire planet. And I truly believe that 40 years from now,
Earth Day is 40 years old today. So 40 years from now I think it'll be too late. The biggest
changes we wanted to make, it'll be too late to make those changes. The animals you wanted
would be gone. We wouldn't have the services that people depend on.
So right now we're in this narrow margin. Of course you would wanna be born right now.
This is the best time to be born. This is the most opportune time to be born 'cause
we're the ones who will see the worst, but really have the opportunity to do the most.
So that's kinda what I wanted to let you go with, but I wanted to tell you one li--last
thing about this little egg.
So you remember I told you we left the egg behind and we walked off. Well that night
we came to the ocean and we camped up there. And some of these African guys I had been
with had never seen the sea before. Namibia has no standing water at all. Think about
it. And all of sudden you're seeing the ocean. That's like seeing planet earth for the first
time really.
So there they are in ocean; everyone's celebrating; we're all taking a bath, it's great. The next
morning a brand new Cessna Caravan comes and lands on the beach. Beautiful plane bounces
down the runway; stops; we all pile in. Brand new plane; leather seats; air conditioning
for the first time. Someone opens up a Coca-Cola and hands it to me. Now I'm not big into sugary
drinks, but it felt really good. So I took that first sip, it's great. Door shuts. Plane
revs up, goes bouncing down the sand, takes off.
As it's taking off I look out the window and guess who's waving at me? My four African
guides and the camels. They're waving as we're taking off.
See my little expedition is over, but they--they don't get to go in the plane with the camels.
They have to turn those things around and right, and walk right back across the desert
back to where we started.
Of course in that moment we realized that by evening they were gonna reach the egg.
And none of us were gonna be around. And the interesting thing is the entire plane erupted
in a conversation about what they would do then, when we're not around watching.
Which makes me realize that all conservation no matter where you do it, whether you do
it in--in Tahoe as you saw in the paper today or whether you do it in Namibia; or they do
it in Morrow Bay off the coast of California or, or whether you do it in Indonesia.
All conversation is local. And ultimately the sustainability of conservation will only
happen if local communities embrace it.
We will always be foreigners and guests in their land. As soon as our little money ends
they will have to step up and take over. The amazing thing is we don't really know what
they would do.
I frankly might have eaten it. Don't put that in, okay?
I don't know. But the question was that we didn't either and it was a legitimate debate
we had. I actually think they would probably have left it alone and kept walking. That's
what those guys are like. But the point is that when our eyes are turned how will they
take care of the planet?
Thank you very much.
>>Alan Eustace: So do we, we have plenty of time for questions. If--if some of you wanna
get up and leave, please feel free to do that just try to be quiet, but I'm sure there are
questions in the audience and we'll take them for Sanjayan.
That was a great talk.
Anybody have any questions?
>>male voice: I have a question about the Solomon Islands.
Back on the Solomon Islands data you showed data after you had implemented the marine
protected area --
>>Sanjayan: Yep.
>>male in audience #1: versus areas that didn't have marine protected area.
>>Sanjayan: Yep.
>>male in audience #1: Do you have data of the place that had later a marine protected
area before it had the marine protected area?
>>Sanjayan: Great question and the truth of the matter is we don't have it at the level
we want it at. We do have some, but not enough.
So very clever, I knew you would catch something like that. Good catch.
The problem is most conservationists don't do a good job of measuring the impact of their
work because we do God's work. We do good stuff. Why do we, that's a genuine fault with
us. You don't think about that and it's a systematic, it's a systematic fault with how
we think about conservation.
So in the Solomons' case we do have some, but the--the real sample we had were communities
that had it and communities that didn't.
I--I--I see where you're goin' with it. We're doing a bigger study there right now.
>>Alan Eustace: Here you go. Here's a question right here. Do you wanna stand up and ask
your question?
>>child in audience #1: How are salamanders surviving like these days? Because they need
like a special habitat so like do their habitats get destroyed every once in a while like
>Sanjayan: Great question. So how are salamanders and I'd say amphibians and frogs doing?
So they're not doing very well because most things like frogs and amphibians and toads
need both land and water to survive. So you can't just protect land, you also have to
protect water. And water pollution is a really big, big problem with pesticides and things
like that.
So most of them aren't doing that well. There are some that are doing some, that are doing
pretty well.
In California you have really great salamander called the tiger salamander. It's a really
big salamander and he's got spots and he kinda looks like a tiger. If you pick him up, which
you shouldn't really do, but if you do, he'll croak at you. He'll go, "Raa" like that, like
a little tiger. It's pretty cool.
And that salamander's actually doing really well because, well they're doing well in some
places because we're working with farmers and land owners to really protect the grassland
for that salamander needs to live in. So the Nature Conservancy and other local land trusts
are working all over California to protect that salamander, the tiger salamander.
>>male in audience #2: You talked about the fish bank in Solomon Islands --
>>Sanjayan: Yeah.
>>male in audience #2: you explained how--how the locals there prefer to think of it as
a fish bank as opposed to conserva--conservancy. It seems to me that argument would be true
pretty much anywhere in the developed world as well. Have you had success in trying to
replicate that for cod or various other fishes?
>>Sanjayan: We've had tremendous success with our argument of using banks as a catch phrase
to--to talk about a collective resource the community can draw on in times of trouble.
So not only do we have fish banks we also now have grass banks; That are grassland areas
that the community agrees to set aside for wildlife like in Northern Kenya we're doing
enormous projects there; where we're setting aside huge grass banks as well as in the United
States, California, Arizona, places like that, where the community says, "We've gonna leave
this for-for wildlife, but in times of drought when everyone's rushing to sell their cattle
and so all the cattle prices deflate, we can go in there and graze it in that, in that
And it's a, it's a very attractive argument to poor communities who constantly go through
boom and bust cycles of have and then everyone then no rain then all cattle are dying then
everyone's selling at the same time.
With fish banks we have in lots of different kinds of things. One really cool thing we're
doing right here off the coast of--of California, just south of here, is basically buying trawler
permits and taking a lot of the trawlers that are having the biggest harm on certain areas
out of business.
So we own the license, the Nature Conservancy does, but then we put them back out and just
give it to them under conditions where they can fish more sustainably using line methods
for example. And then keeping them out of the most sensitive areas as well.
So there's a lot of really clever stuff going on where we're trying to engage with economic
interests to not put them out of business, but to use our might and our dollars to steer
in a different direction.
>>Alan Eustace: Here you go.
>>child in audience #2: How many pounds of food did you need for the walk across the
>>Sanjayan: And what's your name?
>>child in audience: Anika.
>>Sanjayan: Anika, oh great. How old are you, Anika?
>>Anika: Nine.
>>Sanjayan: You're nine, oh I have a niece just like you, she's eight. And she asked
me how many pounds of food I ate on my walk across the desert.
You know the food wasn't, I don't, the truth of answer is I don't know how many pounds
of food we had because we didn't pack like that. We just thought about, you think about
it in cups like so we each would have one cup of this thing that looks like porridge
and then like one can of like tomato which we'd put on top and maybe a can of sardines
that we'd throw on top of that, and eat that for dinner.
So we didn't think of it in pounds. I will tell you for water, which is the real issue,
'cause you can last without food for very long. Water, we were each using about seven
liters of water a day. That's seven bottles, big bottles of water every day. That's for
everything. That's for showering quickly; that's for brushing my teeth; that's for drinking;
and that's for cooking.
And just to give you an idea, that's how much we used every day for 20 days. If you, if
you are in West Africa you would use about 35 liters of water a day.
You know much Americans use, here, you know how much I use in America?
>>Alan Eustace: Wanna make a guess?
>>Anika: I don't know.
>>Sanjayan: Seven hundred liters of water a day; seven hundred. So that means we're
probably wasting a lot of it, don't you think?
>>Alan Eustace: Any other questions?
Yeah, here.
>>male in audience #3: I won't tell you how old I am.
So this takes lots of money. How does the Nature Conservancy fund these projects?
>>Sanjayan: It's a great question.
So the Nature Conservancy gets most of its money from individual donors. We have about
a million members around the world and they send in from 50 dollar memberships to much,
much bigger than that.
We also get a chunk of money from foundations that support it, many of them in the Bay Area;
Moore foundation, Hewlett-Packard all those foundations give the Conservancy money to
do it.
And then there's a small amount of money that we use where we leverage government money
to get something big done.
So that's how the Conservancy, it raises money the old-fashioned way through members like
you and like others like you.
>>male in audience #4: That wasn't a real egg was it?
>>Sanjayan: Huh?
>>male in audience #4: That thing you were shaking was not a real egg?
>>Sanjayan: It is a real egg. What do you think I'm doing like faking these kids out?
>>male in audience #4: Does it really survive?
>>Sanjayan: Here pass it, no, no, no. It's look.
I've eaten what's inside it. Okay.
Let's go show, let's go show him 'cause I don't think you believe it.
>>male in audience #4: Like you, you were shaking it so much --
>>Sanjayan: Oh.
>>male in audience #4: I was like --
>>Sanjayan: Yeah, that ostrich, no, that ostrich, no, it was a, a unfertilized egg from an ostrich
that I actually personally knew.
>>male in audience #4: Oh, okay. [laughs]
>>Sanjayan: It's actually true. It's one lonely female that lives on a farm.
>>male in audience #5: I really appreciated you drawing a link between conservation and
health and people living better lives. And you gave us really great examples of how people
who live with very little means do that.
How can we draw that connection in our own communities and perhaps in our own country
where people live with great means and I think don't make that connection?
>>Sanjayan: You know, so here's the way to do this. I've had a struggle with it and it's
very hard to talk about conservation to people who don't think maybe just like us. So you
have to use whatever the words, whatever language you can to talk about something that has real
meaning to their lives.
Rachel Carson 40 years ago she took on the pesticide industry and broke them. I mean
she got DDT banned; one woman. And she did that by talking to other women living, talking
directly to women in their kitchens back in the 60's; talking to them about health and
safety for their kids. So she said, "Look if the songbirds aren't singing out there
in the woods do you really want your kids playing out there? If the songbirds are dying,
do you really want your kids out on the grass lawn?"
I--I think that the problem with conservation right now, this is my generation that we did
this, we started talking about biodiversity and biodiversity became this all encompassing
And we said, "You go into a forest, you go into coral reef, and the diversity of life
blows us away." And because it blows us away and listen, I, make no apology I live in Montana.
I live in Montana because I wanna live in a place where there's a big animal that could
potentially kill me when I go for a walk. I like that sort of stuff. But I'm a pretty
rare individual when it comes to the grand scheme of things.
So the truth of the matter is, this notion that nature's out there and it should be protected
in all its glory almost like a cathedral, I think is a bit false. We have thought so
much about, what we need to do more is think about how to integrate people in it; talking
about not nature from people but nature for people.
And you can do it in simple ways: you can talk about energy efficiencies in the Bay
Area. That is definitely within reach of everyone here. Early adopters, right? Or you talk about
how water goes into the Bay; you talk about food you eat, where you're getting that food
from. It does make a difference.
>>Alan Eustace: One more question maybe before --
>>Sanjayan: Right next to you.
>>male in audience #6: What's the biggest problem you run into when you're tryin' to
create like fish banks and other banks?
>Sanjayan: There're are two problems. One is the--the issue that the gentleman talked
about a little bit before, conservation takes money.
And when we talk about fish banks we're talkin' about them in the Solomon Islands, well guess
what most of our donors don't live there; they live here.
People like to give to things that are in their own backyard. It's hard to get them
to make that leap to some place very, very far away. So you are really resource constrained
when you do conservation in these far away places. That's the na--nature of the beast.
So that's one issue.
The second issue is gaining people's trust. So that's really hard. You could, you should
never promise something to people that you don't really wanna stand behind. It doesn't
mean you can't make a mistake, but you can't mislead them in any way at all. You have to
be completely transparent. If the numbers don't add up and you're just asking them to
say, "Look take a jump with me on this," then tell 'em that. But you can't fake it, it'll
catch up with you. It'll catch up with you so fast and it'll all blow up. And I've seen
it happen in conservation over and over and over again.
So you have to be really honest and transparent when you talk to local communities. You never
talk down to people just because they speak a different language.
Those aboriginal people they knew more about the environment than you could find out on
the Internet today. They had this intimate understanding of it and--and appreciated what
they're bringing to the table is as valuable as what you're bringing to the table, it's
just different scale.
And then be honest and open when you're having discussions with them. That's the hardest
Thank you guys so much.