Institutional Crisis

We fill online forms all the time. The moment you have to choose your occupation you will realize that fields like biodiversity conservation, nature care, etc are not present. A few months ago I noticed that even in the WWF site you won’t find such an option. That is a worrying symptom..

We don’t think too much about wildlife, during the covid-19 quarantine maybe we started to noticed that without us in the streets wildlife showed up, they took a break, a relief for them, at least for a while, and we saw some awesome images  of wildlife taking a walk in the desert European cities and all around the world, even when we don't see it, we are putting a lot of pressure on wildlife and believe it or not, we depend on them. We tend to believe that our city technology and fast culture development will keep everything OK, well, let me say that Nature will always have the last word, and It could be a pretty tough word.

We depend on birds and butterflies to pollinate flowers and spread seeds, we depend on big predators to maintain the equilibrium, even the most tiny thing in its proper place is important.

These words could be taken as, OK ... just another fellow following trends... but the truth is that I’ve been working on a project to protect Big Cats, Jaguars and their related species for some time now. In that process I felt disappointed and surprised. The main reason of disappointment is the NGO behavior, the surprises are a few but bright ones, such as the involvement of big tech companies taking care of species and nature, not as a trendy enterprise responsibility campaign (publicity) but with concrete acts, Google, Microsoft, IBM, SAS and others.

If you saw the twister movie you could think, well, there it is Hollywood exaggerating things again, but, let me say, that many NGO I got in contact with had that kind of “we own the problem” mindset, even the small ones. It is hard to achieve some sort of collaboration with them, they are closed, they tend to hide information; it is like a fierce competition in a private market. If you didn’t see the movie the idea goes like this: two groups of researchers trying to understand hurricane behavior, the groups competed for funds, they didn’t collaborate with each other, on the contrary, they hided findings no matter if that selfish and egomaniac behavior could determine life and death of many people

To make matters worse, the technology being used by some NGO is old, expensive and ineffective. I recently saw a publication of a “revolutionary camera” able to transmit images over WiFi or cases of ineffective speed control points for a value of USD 750K! On the other hand, you see private efforts delivering state-of-the-art technology all around the world to protect species, from tigers in India, elephants in the Philippines or huemules in Chile.

Low power consumption computing is becoming a reality, we have devices today able to run AI on batteries for month (RISC-V is being also revolutionary in this regard), we have LoRa connectivity (or the one you like the most) that requires from none to some inexpensive infrastructure. In the tech field is where the nice surprises are coming from. Companies like IBM (among the ones I know) are getting involved in creating or supporting the creation of solutions for these sustainability problems. In the recent days, a guy from IBM showed to me this video about how Technology is being used to protect rhinos in a very hostile territory, Technology at the service of Nature is a real deal not an ideal. EDGE and FOG computing is here to stay, it is getting powerful and smaller and I think it will move from companies and factories to the wild sooner that many people think. I think that everyone has to change their way of thinking, we don't live in ghettos, we have to collaborate, delegate and being more humble. I recently received a reply saying "we cannot support this project because we don't know the technology" to me, that is not acceptable for two reasons, the first one, the most critical is that many NGOs want to have absolute control and they cannot control what they don't know, the second one, is a practical reason, each one has its own area of expertise and we need to learn to collaborate. Conservation efforts are becoming more complex, multidisciplinary. Human greed was responsible (in part) of the biodiversity crisis, selfishness cannot be present in the solution.

We need to find a way to mix the good knowledge, data, expertise and practices NGOs have been developing during these decades with the agile behavior of private companies, even individuals willing to solve problems. Well known NGOs have been around for a long time but in my opinion they are not achieving great results (a law that is not being enforced is not good either, Greenpeace, I think you already noticed that).

It could be their fault for feeling comfortable with their gained reputation leading them to become bureaucratic even elitist and in some case, abusing from their name to fight for unclear agendas (there are some brilliant exceptions like Tompkins Conservation who are doing a great work, great is a very small word when you see their work and to make it even more admirable, they started their amazing work as individuals investing their own money); lack of funds could be another justification, governments worried about their own businesses could be another one, but the truth is ... signing petitions won’t do, just google “endangered species” or “species declared extinct” and you will get an idea, if you want a cruel view, see the biodiversity crisis page.

We have to do something about it, work together to prevent an upcoming disaster, for us and for many other species that have zero responsibility in their sad fate. We, humans, must behave as big brothers and take care of them, if that protective feeling doesn’t come from affinity at least it should come out of intelligence, we need to understand that we are part of a whole and if that whole has a problem, then we will all have a problem.

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Big Cat Brother is a network of intelligent connected devices built to mitigate the common death causes that are putting Jaguars at direct risk of extinction.

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