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Environment

Conservation Biology at a Crossroads

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In a brilliant essay (PDF), the American geographer D. W. Meinig writes: "Any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads." Meinig's piece is in a classic 1979 book of essays called, "The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes." This collection features scholars whose work touches on the human/environment relationship. The academic field is known as Human Geography. When I write about ecological matters, I have to understand the science of ecology. But the people who advance ecology (and ecological issues) have a worldview, a philosophy that informs how they think about nature. It is in this context that science and culture are commingled. In recent years, I have watched a contentious debate unfold between highly respected, influential ecologists. These individuals represent two camps with very different ideas about how to safeguard ecosystems and biodiversity. It's a story I have tried to capture in the current (Winter) Issues in Science and Technology. You can read it here. It discusses the roots of conservation, the rise of biodiversity as a core concern of ecology, and the recent fractious divide in Conservation Biology. I have much more to say about the story, but I'm going to hold off until tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you're interested in reading about the battle over the future of conservation, check out my piece and let me know what you think. Additional reading:Myth-busting scientist pushes greens past reliance on 'horror stories,' by Paul Voosen, Greenwire (2012). Is Conservation extinct, by Hillary Rosner, Ensia (2013). Finding Common Ground in Biological Conservation: Beyond the Anthropocentric vs. Biocentric Controversy, by Alejandro Flores and Tim W. Clark, Bulletin Series, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (2001). Emma Marris: In defense of Everglades Pythons, by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth (2012). How to annoy E.O. Wilson, by Michelle Nijhuis, The Last Word on Nothing (2012).

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