The Future of Conservation
Brendan Mackay, respected Australian ecologist, member of the International Union for Conservation, and science advisor to the Climate Change Commission, in his essay, “The Future of Conservation: An Australian Perspective,” offers some perceptive and stark opinions. Here we quote a portion of the essay and encourage you to read it in its entirety. It can be found in a collection of essays published by Island Press: Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth (2014).
Do we need a new compass bearing? In the midst of what is now considered to be the sixth mass extinction in the approximately 4.5-billion-year history of Earth, knowing that the primary agent of biodiversity loss (the aggregate impacts of human activities) is increasing in reach and intensity, it is perhaps understandable that some conservationists have lost their way, have given up hope, or are now suggesting that the goal of conservation be abandoned and reinvented. The(ir) argument goes something like this: There is no longer any wild land, what we have left is in a seminatural state (the product of human management and impacts), so we should think of ourselves more as gardeners who have to manage the planet carefully, ensuring that ecosystems remain healthy and providing people with food, water, and other ecosystem services; in brief, we need to “domesticate nature more wisely.”
Geoscientists have proposed that because humans are now the dominant force of global environmental change, this current epoch should be called the “Anthropocene.” However, it is foolish and dangerous to confuse force with control. The Anthropocene, while an empirical fact, does not mean that humans “run the show.” Rather, it means only that we can be powerfully disruptive. This power to disrupt does not translate into a power to control the Earth system. As the result of human impacts, natural planetary boundaries are now being breached, and we are taking Earth’s environmental conditions outside the safe Holocene conditions, thereby threatening critical life-support systems. Therefore, the Anthropocene should not so much mark the “end of nature” but the opposite: the end of “human exceptionalism” –the idea that humans, unlike every other species on Earth, can live outside the laws of nature. . . .
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Conservation, viewed in its entirety, is the slow and laborious unfolding of a new relationship between people and land.
There is in fact no distinction between the fate of the land and the fate of the people. When one is abused, the other suffers.
From the President
SCP President Chuck Roe looked at land conservation along the route of John Muir's "Southern Trek."
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