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In the Light of Evolution: Volume II—Biodiversity and Extinction
mental concerns below other challenges such as terrorism, the economy, and family values. Novacek analyzes this state of affairs and argues that effective ways must be found to tailor biodiversity messages to each target audience. Enlightened environmental measures by corporations and democratic governments will be achieved only if the “power of the people” is marshaled in favor of conservation efforts.
In Chapter 17, Peter Bryant canvasses the many ways that the general public can become engaged in conservation efforts. Using Orange County—the second most populous county in California—as a touchstone, he explains how local citizens have played and are continuing to play important roles in identifying species of plants and animals, monitoring the status of local populations, assessing geographic distributions, monitoring migration patterns, contributing to rescue and restoration efforts, educating students, joining conservation organizations, promoting parklands and other preservation initiatives, and otherwise contributing to the assessment and protection of biodiversity. These examples are heartening because Orange County (with three million people and growing) lies in one of the most heavily urbanized regions of North America, yet still retains substantial biodiversity that at least some segments of the public are beginning to appreciate and strive to protect.
In Chapter 18, Paul Ehrlich and Robert Pringle close this book by reminding us that “the fate of biological diversity for the next 10 million years will be determined during the next 50–100 years by the activities of a single species” (Homo sapiens). With the projected increase by mid-century of 2.6 billion people to an already overcrowded planet, the prospects for preserving substantial biodiversity are dim, unless societal mindsets and comportments change dramatically and quickly. The authors issue a pluralistic call for action on seven fronts: combat the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss (notably human population growth, overconsumption, and the use of malign technologies); promote permanent nature reserves; provide social and economic incentives to preserve wild populations; better align economies with conservation; restore biodiversity on currently degraded lands; vest human occupants of a region with the desire and capacity to protect nature; and, in general, fundamentally transform human attitudes toward nature and biodiversity. These calls are ambitious, but positive societal responses to them are not yet beyond the realm of possibility.