Should We Conserve Nature for Nature’s Sake, or for Our Own?

The heavyweights of conservation have weighed in – Peter Kareiva, Michael Soule, Jane Lubchenco, Gretchen Daily, and others. Their positions were reported in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Nature, and elsewhere.

An important stance on this question is that human welfare is so important and profoundly threatened by environmental deterioration that we cannot afford concern for nature’s interests. We must focus instead on conservation that serves our self-interests.

The poverty of that stance originates with the question itself, which is a bit like, have you stopped beating your spouse yet? Both questions, in their presumptuousness, are misleading. The question we should be asking is, what aspects of nature deserve to be treated with concern for its welfare or in a just manner? In other words, what aspects of nature possess intrinsic value? The answer, it turns out, has absolutely nothing to do with the importance of humans or the predicament we created by abusing nature.

Nature’s intrinsic value can be understood by knowing what traits humans possess that imbue us with intrinsic value and what else in nature possesses such traits. One such trait is the capacity to experience pain. Mammals and birds certainly possess that —> Read More Here


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