The disproportionate benefits of conservation

People often ask me, or rather more accurately tell me, that “TRIZ sounds great for engineers but it wouldn’t be useful in my field of work, would it?”.

I found this interesting example, not of an initiative that actually used TRIZ, but one which contains all the conceptual elements of TRIZ ‘Ideality’ [calculated as Benefits divided by the Costs and Harms] and more importantly comes to a paradigm shattering conclusion.

Habitat conservation has previously been seen as an expensive activity where conserving sites of importance for biodiversity conservation is simply of academic interest but the benefits were poorly understood while the costs were growing exponentially.

A recent Danish funded piece of research followed a very similar route to one of our TRIZ problem solving workshops:

They identified four (ecosystem service) benefits:

  • carbon storage
  • provision of freshwater ecosystem services
  • option value
  • cultural value

for which they estimated the financial value of these ecosystem services.

Then they assessed the costs of conserving them…

To cut a long story short (you can always read the report) their findings suggest that:

Overall, the aggregated values for the network of priority sites performed significantly better for all four ecosystem services:

  • carbon storage is significantly higher
  • would deliver substantially greater freshwater services than other sites
  • culturally, they lie in areas of significantly higher linguistic diversity

and the killer conclusion, and title of the paper, that

Conserving critical sites for Biodiversity provides disproportionate benefits to people

This is a powerful first step towards taking into account a total ecosystem view. As a TRIZ practitioner, I would be failing my craft not to recommend that they do not stop half way. They should now:

  • Take each of the costs and harms and apply the appropriate Standard Solutions to reduce or remove
  •  Take each of the benefits and work through the Standard Solutions to maximise each benefit.
  • Plot these creative solutions on a nine box analysis sheet and determine what needs to  be done strategically and what tactically.

… and don’t get me started on the all storytelling methods they could use in order to engage the stakeholders in order to make the changes happen.

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