"The stymieing effect of unresolved ethical issues on the conservation of biodiversity" with Prof John Vucetich

25 February 2021

The conservation of biodiversity is usefully understood to be the maintenance of ecosystem health and restoration of endangered species.

In this presentation, Professor John Vucetich & Professor David MacDonald, will examine how the two most important phrases in that definition “ecosystem health” and “endangered species” are underdetermined to the point of being increasingly problematic for advancing real-world conservation concerns. Those ideas – ecosystem health and endangered species – can be adequately understood, but only with a significant dose of ethical reasoning that is missing from the discourse.

Many real-world conservation issues are also treated as negotiations between those who are for and against conservation, where the effort is either discovering a win-win outcome or the assertion of political power for some particular win-lose outcome. These hyper-political environments distract from steep ethical trade-offs that rise from the inevitable conflicts about four basic goals: conservation, social justice, animal welfare, and increased agricultural production. The best outcomes almost certainly require that more of society’s leaders become more facile with the ethical dimensions of these trade-offs.