Half the earth for people (or more)? Addressing ethical questions in conservation

Helen Kopnina
  • Biological Conservation, November 2016, Elsevier
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.09.019

Addressing ethical questions in conservation

What is it about?

Preserving global biodiversity depends upon designating many more large terrestrial and marine areas as strictly protected areas. Yet recent calls for addressing biodiversity loss by setting aside more protected areas have been met with hostility from some social scientists and even some conservation biologists. The main objections against the so-called 'nature needs half' movement include the following. First, setting aside protected areas implies that some vulnerable human communities will be displaced to make space for wildlife. Second, separating humans from their environment ignores the fact that humans have always been part of the environments around them, and creates a false dichotomy between nature and culture. Third, conservationists are said to put the blame for biodiversity loss on all humanity, rather than on those who are doing most of the damage. Fourth, many social justice proponents argue that human population growth is not related to biodiversity loss or other sustainability challenges. This article critically addresses these four objections, exposing their robust anthropocentric bias. Protected area critics reliably demand fairness for human beings at the expense of nonhuman beings, who they treat as morally inconsequential. But justice is not only about just us. Conservation properly understood implies a fair division of Earth's resources between human and nonhuman beings. Justice demands setting aside at least half Earth's lands and seas for nature, free from intensive economic activities. In sum, this article: Calls for setting aside large land areas for biodiversity protection have been met with hostility. Critics argue that strict biodiversity protection will violate justice, equality and equity. This article aims to expose robust anthropocentric bias in conservation critique. Notions of justice are examined from an ecological justice perspectives. A just conservation program must include justice toward nonhuman species.

Why is it important?

A defense of famous biologist E.O. Wilson's plea to consider nature's intrinsic value and protect it by allocating more areas for conservation

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.09.019

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Helen Kopnina