Paper Calls for New Conservation Ethic
That Embraces Diversity of People, Values

A new Comment published in the journal Nature and signed by 240 leading conservationists — including F&ES Dean Peter Crane and F&ES Professors Peter Raymond, Oswald Schmitz, and David Skelly — argues that the field of conservation is hindered by a lack of inclusiveness, particularly of the many different values people hold for nature and the viewpoints of women and diverse ethnicities and cultures.
 
The authors aim to move conservation beyond gender and cultural biases and a “vitriolic, personal” debate that has polarized and dominated the field in recent years — pitting the idea that we must protect nature to help ourselves against the idea that nature should be protected for its own sake.
 
“This situation is stifling productive discourse, inhibiting funding, and halting progress,” it reads. The lead author is Heather Tallis, an adjunct professor of environmental studies at the University of California Santa Cruz and lead scientist of The Nature Conservancy.
 
“The conservation challenges we face are enormous and complex,” said F&ES Dean Peter Crane. “This Comment reaffirms the critical importance of recognizing the many values of nature and the need for inclusivity in the development of successful conservation strategies.”
 
To rectify the lack of diversity in values and voices, the signatories propose a set of specific measures, including:

  • Portray the global history of the field and its centuries of diverse approaches to students training to be conservation scientists.
  • Use social media, journals and conference fora to elevating the voices of scientists and practitioners from underrepresented genders, cultures and contexts.
  • Embrace “all plausible conservation actors” — including corporations, government agencies, and faith-based organizations.
  • Attract media attention to the full breadth of conservation scientists and practitioners to counter the polarized voices that “gather headlines.

“This is a pretty straightforward paper,” said Skelly, professor of ecology at F&ES and director of the Yale Peabody Museum. “A large and diverse group of scholars with interests in conservation are arguing, in essence, that to succeed, conservation needs to reflect the spectrum of values represented among those the field seeks to represent.”
 
Tallis says an inclusiveness of values is already being embraced by key efforts for conservation such as the Convention on Biological Diversity. And she adds that many rank-and-file conservationists — men as well as women — are ready to move past the “instrumental vs. intrinsic value” divide.
 
“I started this letter to raise the voices of women, but quickly found just as many men in conservation who are passionate about broadening the kinds of values and people we embrace,” she said. “They see that we can only meet the great challenges we face by including many values and many perspectives.” 
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PUBLISHED: November 6, 2014
 

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