A letter published in Nature from 240 leading experts calls for a unified and diverse conservation ethic that recognizes and accepts all values of nature from intrinsic to instrumental. Photo: R. Kautsky/Azote

Letter in Nature

Diversity of perspectives key to conservation

Centre researchers among leading experts calling in the Journal Nature for a unified and diverse conservation ethic

Story highlights

  • 240 leading experts have signed a letter proposing a set of measures for a less polarised conservation discourse including:
  • Elevating the voices of scientists and practitioners from underrepresented genders, cultures and contexts;
  • Embracing "all plausible conservation actors" — including corporations, government agencies, and faith-based organizations

A new letter published in the journal Nature (6 November 2014) from 240 leading experts argues that conservation’s impact on the world is being hindered by the field’s lack of inclusiveness — particularly of the many different values people hold for nature, and of the viewpoints of women and diverse ethnicities and cultures.

"This situation is stifling productive discourse, inhibiting funding, and halting progress," argue the letter’s lead authors, Heather Tallis, lead scientist of The Nature Conservancy, and former NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, in a press release.

Oonsie Biggs and Garry Peterson from the Centre are among the signatories of the letter, which aims to move conservation beyond a "vitriolic, personal" debate that has polarized and dominated the field in recent years. This debate has tended to pit the idea that we must protect nature to help ourselves (nature's "instrumental value") against the idea that nature should be protected for its own sake ("intrinsic value").

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Accept all values
The letter's authors aim to raise the voices of women and men from around the world in support of a "unified and diverse conservation ethic" that "recognizes and accepts all values of nature from intrinsic to instrumental" and can align with "the values of the many audiences we need to engage."

"We will continue to face hard conservation problems, and all values will not be equally served in every context," the letter states. "Approaching these issues with representative perspectives and a broad base of respect, trust, pragmatism and shared understanding will more quickly and effectively advance our shared vision of a thriving planet."

Beyond polarization
To rectify the lack of diversity in values and voices, the letter's 240 signatories propose a set of specific measures, including:

- Portraying the global history of the field and its centuries of diverse approaches to students training to be conservation scientists;

- Using social media, journals and conference fora to elevating the voices of scientists and practitioners from underrepresented genders, cultures and contexts;

- Embracing "all plausible conservation actors" — including corporations, government agencies, and faith-based organizations;

- Bringing media attention to the full breadth of conservation scientists and practitioners to counter the few polarized voices that are now gathering headlines.

Conservationists can now add their names to the letter and learn more about next steps toward bringing greater diversity to conservation values and voices at http://diverseconservation.org.

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Citation

Citation

Tallis, H. Lubchenco J. et al. 2014. A call for inclusive conservation. Nature 515: 27-28

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