Program Notes: New York Times, Langurs, MIT Science Writing Edition

Check out this delightful story in todays Times about a conservation success in China, preserving habitat and restoring a population of highly threatened langurs.

A couple of things are of note about the piece.  First, it offers an example of one of the most important modern conservation ideas:  a command approach to preservation is hard one to enforce; much more likely to succeed is one that creates the right combination of economic and moral incentives for those on the front lines — the people, often very poor within the neighborhood in which conservation is to take place.

Second, good work has a long tail.  The scientist-hero of this story was moved to study the social behavior of langurs after reading E. O. Wilson’s seminal Sociobiology, first published in 1975.  A third of a century later, five hundred langurs owe their own, their home’s, and potentially their species’  continued existence to the spark of the ideas in that book.

Third — a little shameless self-promotion, at least the institutional variety.  The author of the piece, Philiip McKenna graduated from the MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing — my home base — in 2006.  We can’t take credit for his incredible work ethic, sense of story and spirit of adventure…but it is always a pleasure to think, with cause, I believe, that what we did here helped him on his way.

Image:  Mori Sosen, “Monkeys in Plum Tree,” 19th century.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.  And yes, I know, this is a Japanese painting of a different species of monkey than the one discussed above.  I like the picture, OK?

Explore posts in the same categories: Cool Animals, Environment, evolution, Fauna, good public communication of science, science writing

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