“New conservation” … yet more debate

By Joern Fischer

There’s a new issue of Conservation Biology, and there’s yet another commentary on “conservation science” (as opposed to conservation biology — see this earlier blog entry, and this one). This one is called “New Conservation is True Conservation“, by Michelle Marvier. Its goal appears to be to put right some of the criticisms against “new conservation” expressed by Michael Soule in an earlier editorial.

I guess the main point is that “new conservation” is trying to get people interested in conservation who otherwise won’t be. By appealling to human well-being, not just instrinsic values of nature, it’s possible to reach different, and arguably more people, and thus get them into the “conservation tent”.

Michelle Marvier explicitly argues against creating schisms in conservation. I agree, and on this blog, this was eloquently put by Dave Abson just very recently. We can highlight useful aspects of nature to people, but we can also work to conserve life for the sake of conserving life.

(Funnily enough, the same issue of Conservation Biology has an article saying that Snow Leopard conservation hinges on the religious belief of Tibetans that killing them is “wrong”… not much of an ecosystem services argument showing that both view can occur side by side in the same journal)

With all this understanding that polarisation is just silly and won’t do anyone any good, just one question remains: If your goal is to avoid polarisation, why choose a title like “New Conservation is True Conservation”?  🙂

To be contiued, I suspect …

3 thoughts on ““New conservation” … yet more debate

  1. I think part of the problem is that academics like a niche; a well constructed ivory tower from which one can defend and that provides a lofty elevation from which to fire shots from our ‘thought cannons’ at the ‘opposition’. If we all spent a bit more time asking each other how and why we build our towers the way we do, rather than just trying to knock each others’ towers down we might find that we can build new and exciting things together.

    Still I suspect asking academics to stop firing cannon shots at the ‘faulty tower builders’ is a bit like trying to take toys away from toddlers, fine in principle, not so easy in practice. Particularly when some of the adults (journals) seem to positively encourage naughty behaviour from their kids.

    Here I should admit that I am hardly free from sin in this regard (see, for example, my blog entry on academia’s obsession with made-up figures), so while I should know better I still like to keep my cannon handy and my powder dry.


  2. Pingback: Old conservation, new conservation, true conservation | theoretical ecology

  3. Beautiful post! From a very broad perspective, what I see happening in the circles of conservation biologists is a very natural evolutionary phenomena: when a species (discipline, meme – as Dawkins would say) arise, have its spread and then start to diversify according to the features of the ‘grounds’ (ecological context, brains/characters) they reach. After a while specialization (may) became so well nuanced that the common share is decreasing and new species (views) starts to appear. Which may, eventually, have little to do with each other (see some cases of ring species:).

    What to do with this ‘recognition’? To keep it broad: its nice, and its just life. Any bolder statement would likely contribute to the above diversification because would fall in a well formed basin of thinking.

    Reaching consesnus around a shared common value? Ok, sounds good. In reality is hard, because … because:)

    Real world consequences? Yes. The diversity of perceptions about the role of our discipline indeed can shape the basin of thinking of policy makers. Who are generally, by nature, ‘bold thinkers’. And yes, can contribute to the ‘fragmentation’ of views which ultimately can result in creating a kind of overall too diverse (even in ‘bad sense’ as well as in good sense) real world perceptions between the non academic world people (i refer to ‘taxi drivers’ and other people like them).

    All this is a nice thing, viewed from a broad perspective:) Nice, because the same evolutionary forces operates even with us, people considering ourselves mindful, reflective etc. as with bacteria, rats or insects:)

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