tractors, treasure, pavement, goats, and Cadillacs, to name a few. The processes of economic and infrastructural development help to divorce people from the natural world. Moreover, although outdoor recreation and ecotourism are still important parts of many lives in rich countries, biophilic impulses seem increasingly swamped by other stimuli. In the United States, the rise of electronic media has coincided with a 20-year downturn in National Park visitation, after 50 years of steady increase (Pergams and Zaradic, 2006). Recent findings indicate that similar declines in contact with nature are common to developed nations worldwide (Pergams and Zaradic, 2008).
Such trends will not be reversed and the biodiversity crisis will not be resolved until nature can rival virtual reality as a source of entertainment, intrigue, and inspiration. Janzen (2004a, 2005) offers a compelling analogy: as books are uninteresting and useless to an illiterate person, so is biodiversity uninteresting and useless to a bioilliterate person. People keep what they use, and increasing bioliteracy would enable more people to find uses for biodiversity. Demand for ecotourism and perceived “existence values” would increase and, with them, biodiversity-sustaining revenues. In a world of stingy appropriations for conservation, we have a wonderful academic literature on how to maximize returns on conservation investments (Wilson et al., 2007). But we have spent comparatively little effort figuring out ways to create a world of biodiversity fanatics and conservation voters, where conservation resources would presumably flow more freely.
The earlier in the developmental process comes exposure to nature, the better the odds of inspiring devotion to biodiversity and its conservation. It is a rare conservationist who did not encounter nature as a child. Every one of us can go to elementary schools to show pictures of animals and plants and tell funny stories about ecology. The teachers will be happy to have us. More ambitious people might think about how to finance and institutionalize school field trips to natural areas. Those of us who work in the tropics can do these things there, too.
Clearly, we can also use other strategies. One method is to appropriate the very technologies that are currently enforcing the divide between people and biodiversity. Biodiversity is increasingly on the World Wide Web via projects such as the Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org) and Wikispecies (http://species.wikimedia.org). But we can do more. We can upload science and nature shorts to YouTube and contribute our knowledge to Wikipedia and its offshoots. We can post our lectures online (Rimer, 2007). We can work to add ecological dimensions to online virtual-reality platforms and video games like Second Life, which currently has 10 million registered accounts. These are obvious ideas; many more are possible.