Abstract: A review of the moral foundations of American conservation provides a historical perspective for formulating a twenty‐first century conservation ethic. Building on the Work of R.W. Emerson and H.D. Thoreau, John Muir formulated a Romantic‐Transcendental Preservation Ethic that pitted the allegedly higher aesthetic and spiritual uses of nature against consumptive and extractive material uses. Gifford Pinchot formulated a more pedestrian and egalitarian Resource Conservation Ethic consistent with utilitarian and democratic ideals. Muir also adumbrated a more radical nonanthropocentric preservation ethic rhetorically cast in Biblical terms Aldo Leopold articulated a similarly nonanthropocentric environmental ethic in evolutionary and ecological terms. A review of Leopold's large literay estate, however, reveals that he continued to advocate active management for a mutually beneficial human‐nature symbiosis, in addition to the passive preservation of “wilderness” As the human population grows and more nations develop, the best hope for conservation biology lies in a generalization of Leopold's ideal of ecosystems which are at once economically productive and ecologically healthy. The principal intellectual challenge raised by such an ideal for conservation biology is the development of criteria of ecological health and integrity in an inherently dynamic, evolving, and human‐saturated biota.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 1990
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