Conservation As Ethic
Conservation goals include conserve habitat, preventing deforestation, halting species extinction, reducing overfishing and mitigating climate change. Different philosophical outlooks guide conservationists towards different goals.
The principal value underlying many expressions of the conservation ethic is that the natural world has intrinsic and intangible worth along with utilitarian value – a view carried forward by parts of the scientific conservation movement and some of the older Romantic schools of ecology movement. Philosophers have attached intrinsic value to different aspects of nature, whether this is individual organisms (biocentrism) or ecological wholes such as species or ecosystems (ecoholism).
More utilitarian schools of conservation have an anthropocentric outlook and seek a proper valuation of local and global impacts of human activity upon nature in their effect upon human wellbeing, now and to posterity. How such values are assessed and exchanged among people determines the social, political, and personal restraints and imperatives by which conservation is practiced. This is a view common in the modern environmental movement. There is increasing interest in extending the responsibility for human wellbeing to include the welfare of sentient animals. Branches of conservation ethics focusing on sentient creatures include ecofeminism and compassionate conservation.
In the United States of America, the year 1864 saw the publication of two books which laid the foundation for Romantic and Utilitarian conservation traditions in America. The posthumous publication of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden established the grandeur of unspoiled nature as a citadel to nourish the spirit of man. From George Perkins Marsh a very different book, Man and Nature, later subtitled “The Earth as Modified by Human Action”, catalogued his observations of man exhausting and altering the land from which his sustenance derives.
The consumer conservation ethic is sometimes expressed by the four R’s: ” Rethink, Reduce, Recycle, Repair” This social ethic primarily relates to local purchasing, moral purchasing, the sustained, and efficient use of renewable resources, the moderation of destructive use of finite resources, and the prevention of harm to common resources such as air and water quality, the natural functions of a living earth, and cultural values in a built environment.
In common usage, the term refers to the activity of systematically protecting natural resources such as forests, including biological diversity. Carl F. Jordan defines the term as:
biological conservation as being a philosophy of managing the environment in a manner that does not despoil, exhaust or extinguish.
While this usage is not new, the idea of biological conservation has been applied to the principles of ecology, bio geography, anthropology, economy and sociology to maintain biodiversity.
The term “conservation” itself may cover the concepts such as cultural diversity, genetic diversity and the concept of movements environmental conservation, seedbank (preservation of seeds). These are often summarized as the priority to respect diversity, especially by Greens.
Much recent movement in conservation can be considered a resistance to commercialism and globalization. Slow Food is a consequence of rejecting these as moral priorities, and embracing a slower and more locally focused lifestyle.
Protected areas in developing countries, where probably as many as 70–80 percent of the species of the world live, still enjoy very little effective management and protection. Some countries, such as Mexico, have non-profit civil organizations and landowners dedicated to protecting vast private property, such is the case of Hacienda Chichen’s Maya Jungle Reserve and Bird Refuge in Chichen Itza, Yucatán. The Adopt A Ranger Foundation has calculated that worldwide about 140,000 rangers are needed for the protected areas in developing and transition countries. There are no data on how many rangers are employed at the moment, but probably less than half the protected areas in developing and transition countries have any rangers at all and those that have them are at least 50% short This means that there would be a worldwide ranger deficit of 105,000 rangers in the developing and transition countries.
One of the world’s foremost conservationists, Dr.Kenton Miller, stated about the importance of Rangers: “The future of our ecosystem services and our heritage depends upon park rangers. With the rapidity at which the challenges to protected areas are both changing and increasing, there has never been more of a need for well-prepared human capacity to manage. Park rangers are the backbone of park management. They are on the ground. They work on the front line with scientists, visitors, and members of local communities.”
Adopt A Ranger, fears that the ranger deficit is the greatest single limiting factor in effectively conserving nature in 75% of the world. Currently, no conservation organization or western country or international organization addresses this problem. Adopt A Ranger has been incorporated to draw worldwide public attention to the most urgent problem that conservation is facing in developing and transition countries: protected areas without field staff. Very specifically, it will contribute to solving the problem by fundraising to finance rangers in the field. It will also help governments in developing and transition countries to assess realistic staffing needs and staffing strategies.
Others, including Survival International, have advocated instead for cooperation with local tribal peoples, who are natural allies of the conservation movement and can provide cost-effective protection.
The terms conservation and preservation are frequently conflated outside the academic, scientific, and professional kinds of literature. The US National Park Service offers the following explanation of the important ways in which these two terms represent very different conceptions of environmental protection ethics:
″Conservation and preservation are closely linked and may indeed seem to mean the same thing. Both terms involve a degree of protection, but how that protection is carried out is the key difference. Conservation is generally associated with the protection of natural resources, while preservation is associated with the protection of buildings, objects, and landscapes. Put simply, conservation seeks the proper use of nature, while preservation seeks protection of nature from use.
During the environmental movement of the early 20th century, two opposing factions emerged: conservationists and preservationists. Conservationists sought to regulate human use while preservationists sought to eliminate human impact altogether.″
Evidence-based conservation is the application of evidence in conservation management actions and policy making. It is defined as systematically assessing scientific information from published, peer-reviewed publications and texts, practitioners’ experiences, independent expert assessment, and local and indigenous knowledge on a specific conservation topic. This includes assessing the current effectiveness of different management interventions, threats and emerging problems and economic factors.
Evidence-based conservation was organized based on the observations that decision making in conservation was based on intuition and/ or practitioner experience often disregarding other forms of evidence of successes and failures (e.g. scientific information). This has led to costly and poor outcomes. Evidence-based conservation provides access to information that will support decision making through an evidence-based framework of “what works” in conservation 
The evidence-based approach to conservation is based on evidence-based practice which started in medicine and later spread to nursing, education, psychology and other fields. It is part of the larger movement towards evidence-based practices.
- Newman, Varner, Lunquist (2018). Defending Biodiversity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN9781139024105.
- Gardiner and Thompson (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics. OUP.
- http://compassionateconservation.net Compassionate Conservation
- Theodore Roosevelt, Address to the Deep Waterway Convention Memphis, TN, October 4, 1907
- Jordan, Carl (1995). Replacing Quantity With Quality As a Goal for Global Management. Wiley. ISBN0-471-59515-2.
- Haciendachichen.com, “The Importance of Eco-Design”
- Adopt-a-ranger.orgArchived 3 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Tribal Conservationists
- National Park Service: Conservation versus preservation
- “The Basics”. Conservation Evidence. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
- Sutherland, William J; Pullin, Andrew S.; Dolman, Paul M.; Knigh, Teri M. (June 2004). “The need for evidence-based conservation”. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 19 (6): 305–308. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2004.03.018. PMID16701275.
- Sutherland, William J. (July 2003). “Evidence-based Conservation”. Conservation in Practice. 4 (3): 39–42. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4629.2003.tb00068.x.
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