In one of the many unsolicited emails (I love them really) I received the other morning, this was included as a postscript:
In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.
It comes from a speech that Baba Diome, the Senegalese poet / ecologist / environmentalist, made in 1968 to the general assembly of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and is well thought of enough to be easily found on the web.
It is, of course, the sort of thing that is likely to get a lot of air time from teachers of a particular disposition, but does that mean we should take it seriously as a prescription? I think not.
Of the three ideas here, I think that the first holds most water: "we will conserve only what we love", and even then there seem exceptions.
The second: "we will love only what we understand", just seems nonsense as quite clearly humans are able to love what is ineffable. And anyway, just how much grassland ecology do you need to "understand' in order to value (love) being in a wild flower meadow?
As for the third? Well, "we will understand only what we are taught" has far too much supply-side emphasis for my liking. Someone with an instructor mentality wrote that.
I think I'd rather put it:
In the end, we will conserve only what we love,
we will love only what we value,
and we will value only that we have come to appreciate through experience.
... though there is clearly more to it that this ...