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If we want a whole Earth, Nature Needs Half: a response to Büscher et al.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2017

Philip Cafaro*
Affiliation:
School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University, 108 Johnson Hall, Fort Collins, CO 80523USA.
Tom Butler
Affiliation:
Foundation for Deep Ecology, San Francisco, USA
Eileen Crist
Affiliation:
Department of Science and Technology in Society, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA
Paul Cryer
Affiliation:
Applied Ecology Unit, African Conservation Trust, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Eric Dinerstein
Affiliation:
RESOLVE, Washington, DC, USA
Helen Kopnina
Affiliation:
Department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands
Reed Noss
Affiliation:
Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, USA
John Piccolo
Affiliation:
Institution for Environmental and Life Sciences, Karlstads Universitet, Sweden
Bron Taylor
Affiliation:
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
Carly Vynne
Affiliation:
Nature Needs Half Network, Washington, DC, USA
Haydn Washington
Affiliation:
Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales, Kensington, Australia
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Abstract

Type
Letters
Copyright
Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2017 

Büscher et al.'s (Reference Buscher, Fletcher, Brockington, Sandbrook, Adams and Campbell2016) recent article ‘Half-Earth or Whole Earth? Radical ideas for conservation, and their implications’ raises some important issues for conservation, but it paints a misleading picture of the Nature Needs Half movement. Nature Needs Half expresses three main tenets: (1) habitat loss and degradation are the leading causes of biodiversity loss, (2) current protected areas are not extensive enough to stem further loss of biodiversity, and (3) it is morally wrong for our species to drive other species to extinction (Wilson, Reference Wilson2016). Conservation biologists agree that to maintain viable populations of most of Earth's remaining species, we will need to protect c. 50% of landscapes and seascapes from intensive human economic use (Noss & Cooperrider, Reference Noss and Cooperrider1994; Locke, Reference Locke2014). This bold goal is necessary if we hope to bring our societies’ massive displacement of other species to an end.

Necessary, but not sufficient. Büscher et al. correctly note that setting aside more habitat for other species will not preserve them if we continue to misbehave in more developed areas: over-consuming and generating excessive pollution, for example. It is all one Earth, after all, and protected areas are often degraded by external actions. We also agree with Büscher et al. that any significant changes in land use, including Nature Needs Half, must be made with due consideration for the rights and interests of the world's poor and indigenous peoples (Kopnina, Reference Kopnina2016). This accords with a consensus among conservationists that local communities should be actively involved in conservation efforts.

However, intraspecies justice—justice for people—should not come at the expense of interspecies justice: the very existence of other species. Nature Needs Half proponents envision a world where all species can flourish (Goodall, Reference Goodall, Wuerthner, Crist and Butler2015). This will require setting aside sufficient habitat for other species while living justly and prudently on the remainder. Supporters of Nature Needs Half agree with Büscher et al. on the need to challenge the neoliberal growth economy (Crist, Reference Crist and Butler2014); our proposal does precisely that, by protecting many more areas from its ravenous demands for natural resources. Creating such a mutually flourishing world will also require limiting human numbers, another sharp challenge to the endless growth economy (and a subject ignored by Büscher et al.).

The scientific consensus is clear: humanity is on a trajectory to cause a mass extinction unrivalled in the last 65 million years of life on Earth (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014). This calamity can be avoided only by setting aside far more of Earth's land and seas for conservation, and by developing ecologically sustainable societies. We believe doing so is a moral imperative (Cafaro & Primack, Reference Cafaro and Primack2014). We owe it to the many magnificent and unique forms of life that remain, who we have no right to exterminate, and we owe it to future human generations, who will be grateful to inherit a lively, diverse, resilient and beautiful biosphere.

References

Buscher, B., Fletcher, R., Brockington, D., Sandbrook, C., Adams, W., Campbell, L. et al. (2016) Half-Earth or Whole Earth? Radical ideas for conservation, and their implications. Oryx, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605316001228.Google Scholar
Cafaro, P. & Primack, R. (2014) Species extinction is a great moral wrong. Biological Conservation, 170, 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crist, E. (2014) Choosing a planet of life. In Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (ed. Butler, T.), pp. 294301. Foundation for Deep Ecology/Goff Books, Novato, USA.Google Scholar
Goodall, J. (2015) Caring for people and valuing forests in Africa. In Protecting the Wild: Parks and Wilderness, the Foundation for Conservation (eds Wuerthner, G., Crist, E. & Butler, T.), pp. 2126. Island Press, London, UK.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kopnina, H. (2016) Half the earth for people (or more)? Addressing ethical questions in conservation. Biological Conservation, 203, 176185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Locke, H. (2014) Nature needs half: a necessary and hopeful new agenda for protected areas in North America and around the world. The George Wright Forum, 31, 359371.Google Scholar
Noss, R. & Cooperrider, A. (1994) Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA.Google Scholar
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2014) Global Biodiversity Outlook 4. Montréal, Canada.Google Scholar
Wilson, E.O. (2016) Half-Earth. Our Planet's Fight for Life. Liveright Publishing, London, UK.Google Scholar
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