Biodiversity, Sustainability, and Human Communities: Protecting beyond the Protected

Biodiversity, Sustainability, and Human Communities: Protecting beyond the Protected

Biodiversity, Sustainability, and Human Communities: Protecting beyond the Protected

Biodiversity, Sustainability, and Human Communities: Protecting beyond the Protected

Synopsis

The rate at which the planet is losing its biodiversity, the implications of this loss, and possible remedies are the subject of much public and academic debate. This book shows how biodiversity can be protected through the involvement of local communities. The authors suggest that strict protection of threatened areas must be combined with involvement by local economies and societies. The book examines the experience of regions around the world where this approach has been tried, drawing upon the insights of political scientists, economists and social psychologists.

Excerpt

Biodiversity and the fraying web of life

This planet is unique, at least as far as we will probably ever know. It contains life, which is maintained through self-regulating flows of energy and chemical connections, the science of which is well described by Tim Lenton (1998). We also know that these webs of life are frayed (World Resources Institute 2000). We are by no means clear as to how much these life-maintaining flows and fluxes are damaged. An assessment by the World Resources Institute (2000: 9) entitled Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (PAGE) indicates that there is still a fundamental ignorance of how this web joins, and of what it consists at any scale of analysis, or of human action. The Board on Sustainable Development of the US National Research Council (1999: 208, 220–1) points out that this ignorance is all the more worrying because of the complex multiple causes and consequences of this disruption. One of the major threats to ecosystem goods and services is our lack of understanding about how specific ecosystem functions may change with ecosystem transformations. Another cause for concern is our hesitation about deciding on options for coping with and ameliorating these fundamental changes. A third limitation is lack of knowledge about, or incorrect valuation of, the 'worth' of ecosystem functioning for social well-being and economic advantage.

A study attempting to calculate the 'worth' of ecosystem services (Costanza et al. 1997) came up with a range of estimates on the basis of heroic estimates and ingenious assumptions. These estimates all exceeded the current value of total economic activity for the globe, on an annual basis, by a factor of up to threefold. Frankly there is no way of knowing how accurate this calculation is. What is revealing is that a clever monetary estimate indicates our scale of dependency or 'free riding' on the web of interconnected life. More relevant, perhaps, is the danger of trying to place a market-equivalent value on a mystery for which we should be more in awe than in arithmetic.

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