The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy

The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy

The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy

The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy


With a foreword by Edward O. Wilson, this book brings together internationally known experts from the scientific, societal, and conservation policy areas who address policy responses to the problem of biodiversity loss: how to determine conservation priorities in a scientific fashion, how to weigh the long-term, often hidden value of conservation against the more immediate value of land development, the need for education in areas of rapid population growth, and how lack of knowledge about biodiversity can impede conservation efforts.

United in their belief that conservation of biological diversity is a primary concern of humankind, the contributing authors address the full scope of global biodiversity and its decline -- the threatened marine life and extinction of many mammals in the modern era in relation to global patterns of development, and the implications of biodiversity loss for human health, agricultural productivity, and the economy. The Living Planet in Crisis is the result of a conference of the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation.


The transformation of Earth's habitats and ecosystems, along with an inevitable loss of biological diversity, involves a complicated set of social, economic, and political issues. Whereas most public discourse describes the problem from a firstworld perspective of the loss of endearing species or the wanton destruction of natural beauty, the real story of biodiversity loss is a complex melange of mind-numbing concerns such as economic inequalities and pernicious incentives, poverty, agricultural policies and food security, political justice, and many other societal manifestations of the way in which people relate to the land and the resources it houses.

What this implies is that the guaranteed way of keeping the status quo—of ensuring that habitats and ecosystems will continue to degrade and that species loss will continue unabated—is to keep visualizing the problem from an overly simplified, developed-world perspective. Yet because the problem is so vast, the causal interconnections and consequences so complex and often indeterminate (at least before the fact), it is often easy for people to deny there is a problem or to claim it is intractable and thus fail to act. Those having a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, particularly many policymakers, are loath to look beyond the economic and political here-and-now and take a more global, long-term perspective. That stance is made easier by scientific knowledge that appears, or is made to appear, indeterminate and conflicting—for example, whether there is global warming—or by uncertainties in the societal consequences of scientific knowledge, even when there is general consensus about the latter.

The scholars in this volume share a common view: despite scientific uncertainties about Earth's biological diversity and its rate of loss, what we do know is that species loss is accelerating at an alarming rate; despite uncertainties about the details of the long-term societal impact of this loss, those impacts have been and will continue to be profound; finally, despite the certainties about how humans . . .

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