Posted by on May 24, 2018

I am ecstatic to be back at my writing desk again, ready to finish two book projects–Wild Tapestry and, with my dear friend Donna Mulvenna, Shock and Awe.

Stormbird Press will publish both books in 2019. That might sound a distant deadline, but from where I am sitting it feels like mere moments away!

For the final quarter of 2017 I was drawn back into my old world of international wildlife policy. In October, I attended the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, in the Philippines, working to secure global Guidelines to roll-back ocean noise pollution, caused by industries–oil and gas exploration, shipping, military sonar and a host of other ways people now create devastating ocean noise. For the past 20 years or so scientists have believed this noise only harmed whales, but emerging science confirms that everything from krill, to fish, to turtles, to marine mammals suffer from this pollution. A scientific paper, published mid last year, revealed that oil and gas exploration kills krill in a 1.2 km radius around their air guns (so-called seismic surveys). I am immersed in this work because my brilliant husband coordinated the team of scientists to write the Guidelines. My small part was to ensure the Migratory Species meeting adopted them. It was a fantastic win that vindicated the team’s hard toil researching, writing and surviving two major rounds of government comments. You can read about the win on the Wild Migration website.

I also focused on gaining better civil society access to international decision making for local communities and conservation groups; especially those with poor government or international conservation group representation. If you’ve read one of my books, you’ll know this is a theme close to my heart. I’ve been working towards this through the Migratory Species Convention for about 12 years, so it was a sweet moment to have the Governments of Ghana and Brazil champion the need. We secured a commitment to explore ways to progress this work and to bring recommendations back to the next Migratory Species meeting (in India, in 2020) for governments to consider.

In December, I represented OceanCare at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya, to once again progress recognition of ocean noise pollution. I was also able to do some more research for Wild Tapestry while I was there. Civil society access is terrible in this forum. There are rays of hope, but it was sobering to discover how far this body still has to go. During the meeting, we heard of oppression and even murder of civil society activists–land defenders–working to protect their traditional lands, wildlife, and wild places. I was honoured to participate in an action for women land-defenders killed while standing up to corrupt governments and big industry including mining, palm oil, and hydro-schemes.

The plight of activists in many developing countries is interwoven with the West’s view of our superiority. We tend to ‘tell’ other regions, especially communities in less developed countries how they should use their land or the solutions they should implement, often imposing our will without ever listening to their perspectives or their ideas. Maybe it’s a palm oil plantation, maybe it’s a mine, or maybe it’s a protected area. We feel justified in the ‘telling’ because it’s our investment, or our grants, or our donations that are being used. We turn a convenient blind eye to the root of the problem–our consumerism. We’ve developed a cultural blind spot, where we think we are always right and bear no responsibility.

The next generation of Malaysian conservation scientists (photo by Badrul Azhar)

The next generation of Malaysian conservation scientists (photo by Badrul Azhar)

This blind spot extends too many sectors, even science. A few weeks a colleague and friend, Badrul Azhar in Malaysia, published an excellent essay, Conservation Impossible in Developing Countries.

With passion, he wrote about how scientists and researchers in less developed countries experience scientists from wealthy countries airdropping into their research area, conducting science, publishing journal articles, and then leaving. They have little lasting connection with the research community already there, leave little behind, and justify their actions by saying that the resident research community isn’t active enough. As Badrul explained, developing world scientists are active, but more quietly so. They do what they can with the resources they have to hand. They could do so much more if researchers from wealthy countries chose to work with them instead of going solo. It’s a brave essay. I urge you to read it.




With the international work behind me for awhile, I am resuming my writing.

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As soon as my books are ready, I’ll be thrilled to send you advance electronic copies for you to review, and will follow up with a signed paperback once your review goes live. It’s my way of saying thank you.