“Minteer bravely takes on the many facile assumptions of conservation’s technofixologists and misanthropes alike to offer us a humbler and hopefully more effective way to save and to savor the presence of the remaining living riches of the “natural” world.“
~ Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Lands and Communities
Yesterday, we featured a Q&A with Ben A. Minteer, author of The Fall of the Wild: Extinction, De-Extinction, and the Ethics of Conservation. Today, as part of our month-long Earth Day campaign, we’re highlighting a couple of articles written by Minteer that discuss the moral and ethical conundrum in wildlife conservation and a review of the book. Check back tomorrow to read an excerpt from chapter 1″Our Vanishing (and Reappearing) Wildlife.” In the meantime, enter our drawing for your chance to win a copy of The Fall of the Wild.
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In The Fall of the Wild, I discuss some of our more iconic lost animals that had the misfortune of either being highly attractive to rapacious market hunters and specimen collectors, or, like the thylacine, were viewed as threats requiring annihilation. I also mention some harrowing “close calls” where forward-thinking conservationists were able to pull species out of the fire, including the game-changing efforts to breed the American bison back into viability at the Bronx Zoo in the early 20th century and more recent struggles to make sure the southwestern skies are never free of California condors.
The Fall of the Wild is a book about the ethical challenges of conservation in a time of accelerating wildlife losses and growing scientific and technological power. In an age of extinction, biodiversity scientists and wildlife advocates have sought to curb species declines and extinctions via a range of scientific and policy strategies, from the traditional (regulations, referenda, and refuges) to the novel (the scientific wizardry of genetic engineering). The more ambitious and aggressive conservation approaches, however, raise thorny questions about the ethical consequences of our expanding incursions in wild populations and places.
With the sixth mass extinction event on Earth underway, science surrounding the study of wild animals, their habitat, and their conservation has been focused on how we can save animals and preserve diversity. Many different methods have been proposed and some have been used, to varying success. However, the discussion rarely focuses on whether we should use these methods, and their ethical implications. Scientific studies themselves attempt to be as neutral as possible, but the applications of such research is where ethics particularly play a role. There are many ways to save a species, but to what limits should we interfere?