How to conserve biodiversity in a nonequilibrium world

Klaus Rohde, Hugh Ford, Nigel R. Andrew, Harold Heatwole

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Why should we conserve biodiversity?: Peter Sale, in his important book Our Dying Planet (2011), presented and critically examined economic and ethical/esthetic arguments for conserving biodiversity. We refer the reader to that book for an overview. An ethical responsibility of humans towards nature is usually denied: man has responsibility towards other humans but not towards animals. There are exceptions, for example in Schopenhauer’s philosophy compassion with fellow humans and animals is the foundation of ethical behavior (Rohde, 2010). In other words, man has the responsibility not to harm any animal needlessly but to safeguard its survival, which implies protection of its habitat, and this may well be an attitude held by many. The esthetic value of protecting biodiversity is even more controversial. It is almost impossible to define such a value. One is left with pointing out that many of the most important works of art were and are inspired by nature, by a forest, a plant, an animal, and that people enjoy forests and other undisturbed habitats. In the Italian Renaissance, the period when Western modern culture really took off, the development of science and the artistic appreciation of nature’s beauty went hand in hand, sometimes in the same person (e.g., Leonardo da Vinci). Some great physicists (Einstein for example) have used the esthetic beauty of mathematical equations as evidence for their truth. One can argue that esthetics is as defining for humanity as is scientific exploration. It should not be forgotten that humans evolved in environments with rich floras and faunas, and that change to a life surrounded by concrete and in an environment vastly impoverished from its previous condition could have unforeseen consequences for mental and physical health.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Balance of Nature and Human Impact
    PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139095075
    ISBN (Print)9781107019614
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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