Breakthrough Debate Continues at NYT

April 11, 2012 | Breakthrough Staff,

The Breakthrough Journal essay that called for a dramatic shift among conservationists has sparked further debate at the New York Times.

Peter Kareiva -- the chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy -- and coauthors Robert Lalasz and Michelle Marvier wrote that conservation was failing and needed to adopt a more human-centered approach.

Last week the Breakthrough Journal published four responses to Kareiva et al. and a rejoinder by the authors. Now John Lemons, an emeritus professor of biology and environmental sciences at the University of New England, has taken Kareiva to task at Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth blog.

Kareiva et al. argued that the fragility of nature has been "grossly overstated" by ecologists and conservationists: "Nature is so resilient that it can recover rapidly from even the most powerful human disturbances," a review of 240 studies revealed.

"Resilience," said Lemons, is a "fuzzy" term with a "vague" meaning and little scientific value.

"Resiliency has little practical meaning when talking about the spread of urbanization, monocultures in agriculture, large-scale destruction of the Amazon, or projects such as the Alberta Tar Sands development," he writes.

Lemons contends that the intrinsic value of nature should be defended, developers -- not environmentalists -- should called on to compromise over wild areas, and conservation must be wary of capitalism's role in environmental and human health degradation.

Read more at Dot Earth, where Kareiva has been invited to reply to his critics. Read the original essay, "Conservation in the Anthropocene," as well as responses to it and a reply by Kareiva et al. here.

Update: Kareiva has replied at Dot Earth.