Environmental Values in Conservation: Ethics, Economics and Pragmatism

Publikation: Working/Discussion Paper


Conservation today is facing the challenges of neoliberal world political forces dominated by bankers, financiers and multinational corporations who care little for protecting anything that does not pay them a personal reward. The standard counter to such a utilitarian economic philosophy is to point out alternative ethical approaches, which have for sometime been central to conservation arguments. However, in recent times, environmental non-governmental organisations, including conservation biologists, have increasingly pushed a narrow economic rhetoric, and converted themselves into allies of the ‘economic growth at any cost’ school of thought, in an attempt to win the favour of corporations under a new environmental pragmatism and New Conservation. This discussion paper critically analyses these topics as given in a lecture to the international conservation community. The talk received an unprecedented standing ovation from the audience. It was given as a counter position to that of Peter Kareiva who presented immediately preceding this lecture, and was followed by a debate between Kareiva and Spash. The central topic was the New Conservation being championed by Kareiva and his boss, Mark Tercek, at The Nature Conservancy. As this lecture notes, this is part of a broader ideological move towards neoliberalism in conservation biology, and more generally the environmental movement, in the guise of a pragmatic use of economics. The structure of argument covers: the motivations behind the increasing use of economic valuation and policy instruments, the economics of optimal extinction that lies behind this, the implications that appealing to individual preferences for creating money numbers, why this does not provide protection or lead to conservation, how corporations are using the environmental movement for their own ends, and the implicit ideology of the New Conservation as a conservative technocracy.
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2017


NameDiscussion Paper Series of the Institute for Multilevel Governance and Development, WU Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien.

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