Conservation is About Caring for People and Nature | WWF

Conservation is About Caring for People and Nature

Posted on
20 May 2020
Dr. David Singh, Director – WWF-Guianas

In 1995, Guyana suffered its worst environmental disaster. The tailings dam of Omai Gold Mines ruptured, spilling 4.2 cubic metres of cyanide-laced slurry into the Essequibo River. I had just completed my first year as a lecturer at the University of Guyana after returning from my studies in inorganic chemistry. Because of my background, I was asked to be part of the government response team and was able to see firsthand how industrial pollution affected natural ecosystems, and how resilient nature could be.

I later joined the Iwokrama Programme because I wanted the challenge to work with a small team of people and be part of a change management process, rebalancing strategy and building financial sustainability. Iwokrama was set up to develop techniques and demonstrate how to conserve and sustainably manage tropical rainforests.
Then is when I started to realise how much I didn’t know and how much I took for granted. I learnt a great deal about the things that really mattered and what lies beyond one’s self-interest. In a big way my experience reconnected me to my early childhood upbringing when my parents taught us about respecting others and how that must translate into human rights and the rights of people over their resources.

Conservation is so much about people and understanding the varying or even competing interests they have over natural capital. Working with an organization like WWF I have a unique chance to understand more about how people behave towards each other and towards nature. When rights holders are enabled to make their own decisions for their resources, there is a better chance that these resources will be better managed and secured for future generations.

Looking back, I wonder what makes a materials chemist become involved in nature conservation. Perhaps it is less about what is left behind and more to do with how we our way to contribute best to the place we call home.