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The Preservation of Species

The Preservation of Species

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    The Preservation of Species
    Book Description:

    For all persons seriously concerned about the destruction of natural environments in the contemporary world, this book presents a comprehensive rationale for preserving wild species and ecosystems. Bryan G. Norton appeals most centrally to "transformative value," the power of human contacts with wild species to transform and uplift the human spirit. Until now species preservationists have found a theoretical basis for their policies in the "demand" value of wild species for fulfilling certain narrowly defined human needs or in controversial and badly understood proposals about the "intrinsic" values of species. This work examines such rationales and diverges from them by pointing to new sources of value for wild species: they have worth because they can transform human values.

    Because of the central role of biological diversity in environmental concerns, the book also provides a fresh perspective on environmental ethics more generally. Why Preserve Natural Variety? is sponsored by the Center for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland, as wasThe Preservation of Species: The Value of Biological Diversity, which was edited by Professor Norton.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5786-9
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    Bryan Norton
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    Since the emergence of the human species something over 300,000 years ago, it has grown in population and spread across the globe. This growth began slowly, but has recently accelerated rapidly. For much of history, human life was precarious; while comparatively intelligent, we lacked physical strength and other protections necessary to secure life easily. But in recent centuries, through our technology, we have gained a level of dominance probably never achieved by one species over the others in the history of life on earth. Human shelters now provide outposts on every area of the globe as we have expanded the...

  5. Part I: The Problem

    • Introduction to Part I
      (pp. 9-12)

      What is the scope of the endangered species problem? What are its exact dimensions? What does the problem mean to ordinary people with concerns of making a living and raising a family in what remains of the twentieth century?

      Thomas Lovejoy places the problem in global perspective, as it arises in both developed nations such as the United States and in the developing nations of the tropics. Affluent countries with well-developed scientific communities, with vocal environmental movements, and with legal institutions designed to address the problem of decreasing biological diversity still find the problem a recalcitrant one. In the United...

    • 1 Species Leave the Ark One by One
      (pp. 13-27)

      Endangered species are usually perceived as representing no more than a small number of highly individual and esoteric situations—such as the mysterious small tree from the Alatamaha River Valley of Georgia discovered by John and William Bartram in 1765, named in gratitude for Benjamin Franklin, and found only a few times in nature and not since 1803.¹ This perception of disappearing individual species as opposed to a process of biotic impoverishment is a natural one because people identify readily with individual plants and animals, or individual species, even if the organism is only recently familiar to the general public....

    • 2 The Biology of Human-Caused Extinction
      (pp. 28-49)

      Man is responsible for the extinction of many species. Moreover, his role as biological exterminator is unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future. Three critical questions must be answered in order to understand the implications of extinction for human welfare. These are: (1) Which kinds of species are susceptible to extinction, and which are not? (2) How will the extinction of species affect the communities in which these species lived and alter the evolutionary environment of surviving life forms? (3) Can new species evolve on a man-dominated planet to replace the species which have disappeared and, if so, what will...

    • 3 Social and Perceptual Factors in the Preservation of Animal Species
      (pp. 50-74)

      The development of a compelling rationale and an effective strategy for protecting endangered species will require an increasing recognition that most contemporary extinction problems are largely the result of socioeconomic and political forces. Awareness of the socioeconomic basis of the problem should be a strong factor governing recovery and preservation efforts.

      The historical experience of Hawaii’s extraordinary avifauna is a classic example of the importance of these social forces.¹ Some researchers have suggested that if Darwin had traveled to the more geographically isolated Hawaiian, rather than Galapagos, Islands, he would have encountered in the Hawaiian honeycreepers a family of birds...

  6. Part II: Values and Objectives

    • Introduction to Part II
      (pp. 77-78)

      The chapters in Part I of this book attempt to delineate the endangered species problem. The assessment of an event or trend as a problem implies that the current situation is not ideal and some values are not fully satisfied. That there is broad agreement that diminishing biological diversity is a problem, however, does not imply that there is a single value served by that diversity.

      One can distinguish anthropocentric and intrinsic values. Anthropocentrists believe that all values are ultimately human values, that nonhuman species and other natural objects have value only instrumentally, for the fulfillment of human needs. This...

    • 4 Human Preferences, Economics, and the Preservation of Species
      (pp. 79-109)

      The earth’s biota may be viewed as a resource or a complex group of resources. This view carries two immediate implications. First, biotic resources are instruments for human satisfaction and second, they are scarce. Scarcity means they are both valued and limited and that they can be increased only at the cost of forgoing something else that is valued.

      It has been customary to refer to biotic resources as renewable. More recently, the term “renewable but destructible” has come into favor, reflecting the realization that there is nothing assured about renewal. The “renewable” side of the coin refers to an...

    • 5 On the Inherent Danger of Undervaluing Species
      (pp. 110-137)

      Many preservationists have assumed that the question they should address in attempting to affect policy is: How should one place an economic or utilitarian value on a particular species?¹ My purpose here is to ask and begin to answer a related but different question: What is the utilitarian value of a species, independent of its individual or populational characteristics? The reformulation is significant. The first question emphasizes actual or potential commercial and other values which can be assigned to some particular target species. It is answered by reference to the populational characteristics of the species and/or to the physiological, chemical,...

    • 6 On the Intrinsic Value of Nonhuman Species
      (pp. 138-172)

      At present the earth is in the throes of an episode of biotic impoverishment of, perhaps, unprecedented magnitude.¹ The current rate of species extinction is the subject of controversy, but all parties agree that it is alarmingly great, and accelerating.² From 1600 to 1900 the average rate of species extinction was roughly one every four years, from 1900 to the present one per year;³ and, according to Norman Myers, “if present average patterns of exploitation persist,” the rate of extinction during the last quarter of the twentieth century may reach something over 100 species per day!⁴ It is conceivable that...

    • 7 Philosophical Problems for Environmentalism
      (pp. 173-194)

      A number of philosophers have recognized that the environmental movement, whatever its practical political effectiveness, faces considerable theoretical difficulties in justification.¹ It has been recognized that traditional moral theories do not provide natural underpinnings for policy objectives and this has led some to skepticism about the claims of environmentalists, and others to the view that a revolutionary reassessment of ethical norms is needed. In this chapter, I will try to summarize the difficulties that confront a philosophical defense of environmentalism. I also will suggest a way of making sense of some environmental concerns that does not require the wholesale jettisoning...

    • 8 Duties of Preservation
      (pp. 195-220)

      The central philosophical problem concerning our duties with regard to nature is this: We are strongly inclined to think we have certain duties which are not fully accounted for by instrumental arguments. We are also strongly inclined to hold a view about value that seems to make it impossible to account for these duties by any noninstrumental arguments. Hence our perplexity.

      It seems that we have duties to respect living creatures; to avoid causing the extinction of species; even to preserve complex parts of the environment such as a tropical rain forest or the Grand Canyon. If we ask how...

  7. Part III: Management Considerations

    • Introduction to Part III
      (pp. 223-225)

      In dealing with the endangered species problem, it is tempting to assume a straightforward management model that has the following elements: (1) a scientific description of the current situation; (2) a statement of values and goals, ordered according to their priority; (3) a statement of policy objectives—a list compiled by comparing and noting disparities between (1) and (2); (4) a scientific research effort designed to obtain the information necessary to pursue the objectives efficiently; and (5) the development and dissemination of an instruction manual (a sort of recipe book) telling managers exactly how to proceed in whatever specific situations...

    • 9 On the Susceptibility of Different Species to Extinction: Elementary Instructions for Owners of a World
      (pp. 226-242)

      Extinctions have occurred before and will again—even in a world free of anthropogenic perturbations. In a similar sense, human deaths have occurred before and will again, even under the best of social systems. To act in such a way as to cause a death or an extinction, however, is not excused by these historical precedents.

      Other chapters in this volume focus on the list of species that are known to be endangered and the managerial options available to circumvent the danger. They also provide examples of past extinctions. I will not duplicate these efforts, nor will I consider the...

    • 10 Species Protection and Management Decisions in an Uncertain World
      (pp. 243-254)

      The last fifteen years have been characterized by rising concern in the developed countries for the preservation of species, the enactment of far-reaching legislation in the United States, and the entry into force of an international treaty designed to prevent, or at least control, trade in endangered species.¹ However, development interests, perhaps most strongly in the Third World, charge forward to improve the economy and to raise standards of living. Environmental groups continue efforts to strengthen current laws and to prevent extinction of certain species. The cacaphony of controversy can be deafening.

      Government managers struggle constantly to find solutions that...

    • 11 Property Rights and Incentives in the Preservation of Species
      (pp. 255-267)

      Few people would argue that we should allow any species to become extinct without first considering very carefully the economic and ecological benefits forgone and the economic and ecological costs incurred. In fact, political decisions to save species have already been made. The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, a sweeping and ambitious piece of legislation, is an example of the commitment of federal, state, and local governments to protect threatened species, even at considerable economic cost. This chapter makes the assumption that it is desirable, for whatever reasons, to maintain biological diversity and that governmental initiatives and efforts...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 268-284)

    To attempt to summarize the discussions and papers that emerged from the meetings of this working group undoubtedly involves overreaching the possible. The members of the group were chosen for the originality of their thinking, not because they adhere to any “party line.” Further, the writing of a chapter in such a book as this is usually a contentious enterprise—an important chapter seeks out controversy and defends a novel, not a standard, position. There is a danger, however, that important areas of agreement may be too easily overlooked or ignored. Points of consensus, no matter how hard-won, tend not...

  9. Notes On Contributors
    (pp. 285-288)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 289-296)
  11. Index
    (pp. 297-305)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 306-306)