Google, Apple, Amazon, Uber: companies like these have come to embody innovation, efficiency, and success. How often is the environmental movement characterized in the same terms? Sadly, conservation is frequently seen as a losing battle, waged by well-meaning, but ultimately ineffective idealists. Joe Whitworth argues it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it can’t be this way if we are to maintain our economy, let alone our health or the planet’s. In his new book “Quantified: Redefining Conservation for the Next Economy,” Whitworth draws lessons from the world’s most tech-savvy, high-impact organizations to show how we can make real gains for the environment. The principles of his approach, dubbed “quantified conservation,” will be familiar to any thriving entrepreneur: situational awareness, bold outcomes, innovation and technology, data and analytics, and gain-focused investment. This no-nonsense strategy builds on the inspirational environmental work begun in the 1970s, while recognizing that the next economy will demand new solutions. As President of The Freshwater Trust, a nonprofit freshwater conservation group based in Portland, Oregon, Whitworth has put quantified conservation into practice, pioneering the model of a “do-tank” that is dramatically changing how rivers can get restored. For example, The Freshwater Trust works with the city of Medford, Oregon, to plant native trees along the banks of the Rogue River that provide shade and offset the warm water discharged into the river by the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Using new tools and technologies, shade generated from the trees is quantified and expressed as credits that the city can purchase. This natural infrastructure solution ended up saving taxpayers more than $8 million when compared to the other solutions proposed for cooling the water. Whitworth will walk through why ensuring a future with clean, healthy rivers will require bringing conservation into the 21st century and being adamant about achieving outcomes.
This project is supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).