Conservation in the Anthropocene

I read this article called “conservation in the Anthropocene” by R. Lalasz, P. Kareiva and M. Marvier. The article compares human effort of conserving earth versus earth’s rapid decline. The article points out that we are losing the battle to protect nature. The effort to conserve nature has increased significantly in the 21st century. By 2009 there were about 100000 world-wide protected areas compared to under 10000 in 1950. About 13% of earth’s landmass is protected: that is about the size of South America. Rapid transformation of the developing world from rural to urban has domesticated the planet and made the effort to conserve nature become irrelevant.

Conservationists have been urged to think outside the box to create ways that humans become friendlier with nature. I am thinking at some point we will get to the point of no return even though it may not be anytime soon. Technology that we develop has to consider factors that conserve the environment. Some developmental changes in humanity and progress in technology are necessary and cannot be avoided. Scientists and conservationist have to consider factors that welcome development while minimizing its impact to the environment. For the example the article pointed out that number of orangutans is in Indonesia has decreased significantly not due to deforestation but because of humans killing the orangutans for bush meat and bounty at rates far greater than anyone suspected. In a case like this, scientists and conservationist have to consider solutions that embrace human development like agriculture so as to provide sufficient food while seeking to protect nature.


One response to “Conservation in the Anthropocene

  1. First of all, this is a great article to link to, Alvin. The Breakthrough Institute does a lot of work, and publishes lots of essays, that are excellent resources for this course, and I encourage everyone to take a look both at this article and at the site in general.

    However, I think your comment on the article doesn’t quite capture the central point, which is that the conservation movement, which has traditionally sought to protect “pristine” nature, has run headlong into the paradox that its great success at creating protected pockets of nature in the modern world has nevertheless failed to translate into achieving the movement’s larger goal of protecting nature as a whole. As a result of this paradox, the article goes on to argue, the conservation movement in the 21st century is changing.

    How is it changing? How does the article suggest it needs to change? That is what I think you are getting at in your second paragraph. You rightly point out that there is a call to find ways that humans can be “friendlier” with nature. But what does that mean? It’s not just a matter of keeping our distance from nature — not just a matter of leaving nature alone. The whole idea of the Anthropocene implies that that horse has already left the stable, so to speak. Humans have already put their fingerprints on every part of nature, even the ones that we have tried to protect. So a “hands-off” approach that tries to separate human activity from “nature itself” is, as our experience already shows, bound to fail.

    What do we need to do instead, according to these authors? Maybe you could say some more, Alvin, about what it means to welcome and embrace development (human, economic, technological) — but in a way that is “nature-friendly.” In part, the authors imply, this will demand rethinking what it means to “protect nature.” After all, even if it were desirable, the old model of protecting nature by sequestering it from human influence, by keeping it separate and insulated from the corrupting and corrosive touch of human hands, does not seem to be a viable possibility any longer.

    But if the “pure and pristine” version of protecting nature is no longer in play, what is?

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