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

25 February 2021

Portrait of Professor John Vucetich

with Professor John Vucetich
Professor of Animal Ecology

Professor John Vucetich is from the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University. After graduating from Michigan Technological University with a BSc in Biological Sciences and a PhD in Forest Sciences, he ...

Portrait of Professor David Macdonald

with Professor David Macdonald
Professor of Wildlife Conservation

Professor David Macdonald CBE DSc FRSE is the Director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) in the Department of Zoology, which he founded in 1986. He researches aspects of fundamental biology relevant to solving practical problems of...

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.