Building bridges between economics and the environment at our international Economic Tools for Conservation course

Building bridges between economics and the environment at our international Economic Tools for Conservation course

Fifteen professionals from 12 different countries in Africa, Asia, and South, Central, and North America gathered in northern California for two weeks of new inspiration, strategies, networks, and tools to confront the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. Below are some participant reflections on the powerful experience and insights they received.

Economic Tools for Conservation 2019 international training course
David Johnson’s gives participants a deep dive into microeconomics in just two days at the 2019 international course. Photo credit: Niki Gribi


“The first thing I was told by our first instructor in the microeconomics section was that the moral argument never wins. Even though it shocked me at first, I soon realized that understanding and applying economics tools to make more sound and strong arguments is key to having a wider impact in our conservation endeavors. Economics is a key ingredient to complement and strengthen the moral argument. The course allowed me to really comprehend the power of economics to help us understand the complexity of managing natural resources, and why many of the strategies that conservationists put in place don't have the impact we expect. I plan to include economic analysis in our management plans in order to prioritize the strategies and interventions proposed to reduce threats to our conservation objectives. We have been missing the properly built economic analysis we need to make more informed decisions. I would recommend this course to other conservation practitioners and mainly people who are involved in decision making and informing policy. Economics is an ignored aspect of conservation and can provide a much stronger argument than any other.”

-- Melissa Carmody, Wildlife Conservation Society, Chile


Economic Tools for Conservation 2019 international training course
Melissa Carmody (far right) plays an interactive rice game that simulates fishers’ decisions under different catch regulations. Photo credit: Niki Gribi


“We often think of the economy and the environment as separate issues that are opposed to each other. Sometimes, we do see them as inherent parts but struggle to find the proper harmonization. The Economic Tools for Conservation course helped me to build a bridge between market forces and natural resources, to re-think their relationship, and learn about solutions that sustainably integrate economic growth with conservation. In only two weeks, the course provided me with a wide overview on natural resource economics, from microeconomic principles to ecosystem services valuation methods and cost-benefit analysis of projects and public policy. The lessons learned were enhanced by the interexchange among students from all over the world. After the course, I am increasingly convinced that we need to keep advancing this cultural change in the way we conceive the relation between the economy and the environment, and that this change is possible. At my current position in WWF Paraguay, at the department of Sustainable Production, Markets and Finances, the knowledge acquired on conservation economics will be deployed to revise and improve our technical approach, and design concrete tools/solutions aimed at harmonizing economic dynamics with environmental needs.”

-- Sara Costa, World Wildlife Fund, Paraguay


Economic Tools for Conservation 2019 international training course
Sara Costa and Neema Kitasho receive their certificates. Photo credit: Niki Gribi


“I was stuck in a teaching and research orientation that led me to reading from books, papers, and reports. This course made me realize that at some point a teacher also needs to sit in class and be taught and experience how studentship feels. The course has adjusted my teaching models and even language; I now know the simplest and most understandable means of transferring this information to my students! Cost-benefit analysis is a very important part of my work and I have gained much more confidence in undertaking such a study and drawing effective conclusions from it. The course has added more value to my entire profession.”

-- Neema Kitasho, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania


Economic Tools for Conservation international training course
Course participants and staff with the Dyerville Giant in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Photo credit: Niki Gribi


“The two week course on Economic Tools for Conservation was a blast! I learned that economics for the environment gives you another point of view and also the capacity to be able to defend it with accurate numbers. In addition, I had a great time with amazing people from around the world, learning about their different realities and social and environmental challenges. The course is designed so you can learn from the teachers' experiences and we had many opportunities to interact, which forged a unique relationship that will last for many years. I got from the course not only tools for conservation but also great friends and memories. I can't wait to go back to my country to share it all!”

-- Ernesto Ortiz, Ministry of Environment, Peru