Summary from Just and Lasting Change by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel
An article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper recently suggested that as much as 50% of the planet needs to be set aside from human habitation to stave off mass environmental degradation and irreversible destruction of animal and plant species.
The intention behind this argument is a good one: to conserve the earth’s biodiversity and natural life forms.
These have their own intrinsic value, but also ultimately benefit people in ensuring that natural resources are protected rather than exploited to the point of unsustainability; that air, land, and water are protected in ways that promote public health, and that global warming and other forms of environmental harm are mitigated.
But there is a fallacy at the heart of the notion that the primary way to advance conservation is by removing people from nature.
People and nature are not necessarily adversaries. There are many examples, including contemporary ones, of people serving as successful guardians of nature, rather than as antagonists to the environment and its conservation.
The misguided notion that people and nature are adversaries has sullied conservation since the incarnation of the modern conservation movement. It needs to be acknowledged and addressed because it both hinders and slows environmental conservation and can contribute to denying the human rights of people who depend on nature for their livelihoods.
For many people, as individuals and as communities, their lives, values, and cultures are intimately and inextricably bound with nature.