and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature … for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”
An emotional and intellectual appreciation of nature, and also of rational scientific efforts to comprehend its workings, can be stimulated in many ways. Visual presentations (such as the Life on Earth TV series or the March of the Penguins movie) can play huge roles in educating the public. So too can eloquent thoughts and words, spoken or written. Fortunately, many biologists take delight in conveying the excitement of natural history and the joy of scientific inquiry to their students and also to the general public via trade books, lectures, service in conservation organizations, and other venues. Such efforts should be encouraged, applauded, and rewarded because only an educated public is motivated to demand a place for nature on this human-dominated planet.
The next few decades offer our best and last remaining chance to shepherd appreciable biodiversity through the current global extinction crisis. This monumentally important task should be at the forefront of societal consciousness and action not only because nature offers vast economic and material benefits to humanity, enriches our lives both aesthetically and intellectually, and provides bountiful scientific opportunities to understand the biological context of our existence. More basically, we should cherish nature because it is the ethically proper thing to do. Protecting what remains of nature must become our collective moral imperative. If it does not, we will lose not just nature herself, but also a deeply basic element of our humanity. We must come to value nature for nature’s sake (as well as our own), instill that fundamental ethos in our children, and bequeath to future generations a planet that is no less biodiverse than the one into which we were born.