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32. When should we question environmental orthodoxy? (Russell Galt)

May 2023


There is a tendency in societies to adhere to conventional wisdom. We resist challenges to consensus views, and may even dismiss those who do challenge them as conspiracy theorists... which they sometimes are. But perhaps we take that idea too far sometimes. Perhaps we underestimate the importance of having the freedom to challenge orthodoxy. We live in an age in which more people than ever before are lucky enough to inhabit free societies, but recently it has become “conventional” to take issue with some of these hard-earned freedoms - albeit often with good intentions. Even people who don’t follow the news cycle must be familiar with the concepts of cancel culture and de-platforming. In this episode we discuss the notion of questioning orthodoxy, with a focus on the environment and especially conservation.

My guest is Russell Galt, Head of Policy and Science at Earthwatch Europe, and previously Senior Programme Coordinator of IUCN’s work on urban conservation and Young Champions of the Earth Coordinator with the United Nations Environment Programme. Russell recently complete a Master of Business Administration at the University of Edinburgh, to complement his earlier studies in ecology.


02:39 Historical examples of heterodox thinkers 06:10 False consensus in the scientific literature 09:42 Well-intentioned exaggeration in conservation 12:28 Thought experiment on fighting lies with lies 15:18 The robustness of truth 16:23 Harnessing behavioral science 17:26 Attention-grabbing figures as a means of promoting conservation 24:54 Less well considered threats to life on Earth; looking at the bigger picture 27:08 Nature-based solutions 31:07 Romantic notions of indigenous knowledge 37:30 Important of a culture of debate Links to resources


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