March 29, 2007

Political strategy for conservation biologists

David Johns writes in his ongoing political strategy course for conservation biologists:
[T]oo often conservationists are surprised by how unprincipled the opposition is. To be outraged is one thing—but to be surprised means one is not paying attention.
Regarding political opponents as unprincipled is a common bias:
When [psychologist Glenn D.] Reeder and his colleagues asked pro-war and antiwar Americans how they would describe the other side's motives, the researchers found that the groups suffered from an identical bias: People described others who agreed with them as motivated by ethics and principle, but felt that the people who disagreed with them were motivated by narrow self-interest.
Anyway, Johns argues that conservation biologists should pay attention to the opposition not to lament how evil it is but to imitate it:
Much can also be learned from the opposition about strategy, tactics, and political discipline.

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