Cover Image

HARDBACK
$59.00



View/Hide Left Panel

tion, and they make it impossible to generate precise estimates of future biodiversity.

In short, although there are many uncertainties about the trajectories of individual populations and species, we know where biodiversity will go from here in the absence of a rapid, transformative intervention: up in smoke; toward the poles and under water; into crops and livestock; onto the table and into yet more human biomass; into fuel tanks; into furniture, pet stores, and home remedies for impotence; out of the way of more cities and suburbs; into distant memory and history books. As biodiversity recedes, we also lose the stories that go with it and many ways of relating to the world in which we evolved.

We now consider what might happen if humanity changes the way it does business. Ours is not a comprehensive treatment of this issue. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005a) contains a thorough and colorful summary of the state of biodiversity, and it provides important (and necessarily overarching) recommendations for softening human impact on ecosystems—things like increasing governmental accountability, eliminating environmentally malign subsidies, and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. However, the breadth and complexity of these objectives, and the considerable political clout required to enact them, can engender the misconception that only governments can determine where biodiversity goes from here. That misconception, in turn, is a recipe for paralysis among concerned individuals. Therefore, we try to focus more narrowly on seven more-or-less concrete sets of actions that individuals or small groups have already set in motion. If implemented more broadly and scaled up dramatically, these actions would collectively enable a different, more appealing fate for biodiversity.

Although each of the following strategies is being used somewhere, none is yet realizing its full potential. Some may not be achievable in all times and places, but none is exclusive of any other. Most of these strategies are familiar to most people in the conservation community; the notion that they are all “correct” ways to conserve biodiversity is perhaps less so. Indeed, squabbles over strategy are endemic within the conservation community, perhaps because different strategies are seen as competing for funding and for primacy in the scholarly idea-scape. The alacrity with which international conservation nongovernmental organizations have “branded” themselves (Rodriguez et al., 2007) and the sometimes absurdly acrimonious exchanges between conservation academics seem to manifest a widespread “either–or” belief that there are absolutely right and wrong ways to protect biodiversity (Wiens, 2007b). Ostrom et al. (2007), in a recent PNAS Special Feature, wrote of the need “to go beyond relying on abstract cure-all proposals for solving complex problems related to achieving sustainable social–ecological systems.” By emphasizing a portfolio of partial



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement