Wording Matters: Conservation vs. Preservation

In a world where words like sustainability are used in many contexts with widely varying meanings, we forget that the environmental community was once very choosy in its wording. Terms have specific meanings such that a single word can communicate a philosophy and accompanying ethics. Conservation and preservation are two such terms. The first denotes an effort to sustain a space or resource for perpetual use. Preservation denotes a fortress-like approach to nature, walling off human influence in order to maintain pristine “wilderness”. The terms are linked to big figures in American history, each of whom established a land ethic according to their philosophy now codified in US law. Read More

Seven Billion Strawmen: Population Bombs and Demography

As Halloween welcomed the world’s seven billionth person, there has been renewed interest in meeting the food, shelter, and water needs of a large and growing global population. One recent article in the Washington Post (10/30/11) attempted to make 7 billion a tangible number that kids can wrap their minds around by describing 7 billion M&M’s filling three Olympic-sized swimming pools. While I think this is a useful exercise, when thinking about 7 billion people, not all people can be counted equally. In terms of resource use, each of the over 300 million United States citizens are like bloated, entitled M&M’s squeezing their smaller brethren out of the pool.

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A thought provoking quote about conservation

I recently heard an excellent quote about conservation issues. The source of this quote is, of all people, my new home state’s embattled Governor. Mark Sanford, prior to his “hiking the Appalachian Trail” scandal, was a well-respected small government conservative. During a speech about his views, he stated that “the issue of environmental conservation sits squarely on the battle line between government and liberty.”

I really believe that, and too few other environmentalists seem to agree. Although we usually have the best of intentions, every time we make a new conservation policy, the government is telling citizens that they can’t do something. Every time the government tells citizens that we can’t do something, we all lose a little freedom.

I’m certainly not advocating that we stop making new policies to protect the environment. All I’m saying is that it would be nice if more people recognized the human impact of some of these policies instead of demonizing people like fisherman and developers.


Ethical debate: saving owls by killing owls?

Image from OwlPages.com

This month’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment has a brief article about a new proposed conservation strategy that seems perfect for a Southern Fried Science ethical debate.  Northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) are one of the most famous endangered species in the United States. While solutions to the destruction of their habitat by logging have been debated for years, a new threat has been recently identified- encroachment on their limited habitat by another species of owl (the barred owl, Strix varia).  Some conservationists now believe that we need to kill barred owls to protect spotted owls.

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Sea Shepherd: Friend or foe of shark conservation?

croppedAs promised, this week’s ethical debate deals with one of the most hotly debated issues in the marine conservation community- the tactics of “Sea Shepherd”.

Though “Sea Shepherd” is most famous (or infamous) for their work with the Japanese whaling fleet, which is featured in “Whale Wars”, they are also heavily involved with the shark finning industry.

Before we get started, I want to say something about the tone of this debate. I know from our own comments sections, even ones that don’t deal directly with Sea Shepherd, that there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue. See last week’s Deep Sea News, particularly the comments section, for an example of this.  Here at Southern Fried Science, we recently came up with a new comments policy, which we will be enforcing strictly with this post. DO NOT personally attack anyone, DO NOT try to change the subject to something totally irrelevant, and DO NOT post under multiple names to create the false appearance of a majority (“sock puppetry”). Since the Deep Sea News post covered whale stuff pretty solidly, we will only be talking about shark finning here. WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT WHALING IN THIS POST.

Ok, now on to the debate.

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