Do we love environmental horror stories too much?

Nature Conservancy chief scientist Peter Kareiva says conservation is failing, and must adapt or die. by Liza Lester, ESA Communications Officer, and Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs Anthropogenic biomes (anthromes): a classification of land ecosystems based on prolonged and abiding communion with people. Map scale = 1:160 000 000, Plate Carrée projection (geographic), 5 arc minute resolution (5′ = 0.0833°). From Figure 1 of EC Ellis and N Ramankutty (2008) Putting people in the map: anthropogenic biomes of the world. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment  6:8, 439-447. [click image to enlarge]   WRITING in the fall issue of Breakthrough Journal, Peter Kareiva, Robert Lalasz and Michelle Marvier attacked an environmentalist movement they described as self-righteous and puritanical, insisting “conservationists will have to jettison their idealized notions of nature, parks, and wilderness — ideas that have never been supported by good conservation science — and forge a more optimistic, human-friendly vision.” The essay largely retreads Kareiva’s talk for the National Academy of Sciences’ Distinctive Voices program, and it offers a few prescriptions for the future: deliberately integrate nature into urban and agricultural development: “development by design” stop “scolding capitalism” and work with corporations stop elevating biodiversity and choose a kind of environmental utilitarianism: “enhance those natural systems that benefit the widest number of people, especially the poor” give up the ideal of a pristine, pre-colonialist American landscape view nature as garden rather than a wilderness (which doesn’t exist) Last week, Greenwire profiled Kareiva with lengthy enthusiasm, and Andy Revkin summarized the argument over at his NY Times blog, Dot Earth, describing it as “a refreshing call for new approaches from a community stuck on what I’ve called a “woe is me, shame on you” tune for far too long.” Kareiva meant to rile people into debate, and he has succeeded: Breakthrough and Revkin have collected and published some of the responses from the conservation community (see links, below). Several are impassioned and irate. We at EcoTone are curious about how ecologists are responding to Kareiva’s challenge. ESA hosted a conference on “Emerging Issues in Ecology” at the end of February that raised many of the same concerns about a need for new strategies, and a new conservation paradigm — one that might be more open to ideas like assisted migration and urban ecology. It seems these ideas are in the air. Here are our initial, gut reactions. What’s yours?   Liza: Kareiva et al’s argument is stuffed with distracting hyperbole and I want to hurry past the temptation to nit pick through their long essay. For me, Kareiva’s talk is more persuasive than the essay, (which is...

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