How can we ensure that conservation policies are based on science, not emotion?

Rick Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


RESOURCES for conservation are scarce, and many important environmental issues do not attract the attention they deserve. Priorities for expenditure are determined largely by the general public’s perceptions of what is worthwhile. For example, how much should we spend on sport versus biodiversity conservation? For many people, sport would be seen as a much better investment. And in terms of biodiversity, what kinds of animals are worth saving? Commonly, people think that cute cuddly animals warrant more conservation effort than ugly or venomous ones — an explicitly emotion-based criterion. What kinds of ecosystems are worth preserving? Again, scenically attractive ones are seen as more “valuable”. What kinds of threats should we prioritize? It’s much easier to motivate people to oppose processes that are unattractive or upsetting, like noisy chainsaws cutting down trees rather than sheep grazing in a pasture. The end result is that priorities for conservation are determined by emotion not science, leading to a woeful neglect of many ecologically significant components of our fauna and flora.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-10
Number of pages5
JournalPacific Conservation Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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