Linking Environmental Protection and the Human Economy

Science, policy, and management

Policy: overarching principle or plan

Relevant to us: conservation (wise use)

Science: formal means of acquiring knowledge

Relevant to us: scientific study of the number and distribution of organisms

Management: control the movement or behavior

Relevant to us: manipulate number and/or distribution of organisms to meet specific objectives

Policy should be firmly grounded in science, should be informed by past and current management, and should be guided by the future needs of both science and management.

The science of ecology should provide a foundation for environmental protection and therefore for much of the practice of conservation biology and natural resource management. It should inform, and be informed by, policy.

Progressive environmental protection is based on societal needs, as filtered through policy, and is also rooted in science, though it must consider several other elements as well.

Historically, management of natural resources has been simple ...

... and probably too simple, given the underlying complexity of the systems being managed. This tendency for simplification is driven by at least two factors:

  1. as a product of evolution, humans are all motivated by simple factors at our core, we are hardwired for flight-or-fight survival and, procreation

  2. managers in this country have been asked until quite recently to provide for the relatively simple management objectives of food and fiber to support an expanding empire

People in different groups have different views of the goal of science

Some people are fearful of science (or what they think science is)

Lack of appreciation for, or suspicion of, science leads to policies of isolationism

Repairing the links between policy, science, and management:

Policy must be rooted in science and practice

Speed of scientific inquiry rarely matches the urgency of environmental problems

Inform science and scientists

Professionals in each of the groups must work hard to understand the other enterprises (and their own), and to maintain open lines of communication between each other

When conducted properly, science lacks bias and subjectivity

Conservation ethics

Before you come to class, calculate your ecological footprint (if you're short on time, use the fast and simple alternative footprint calculator); we will discuss the results in class

Additional Information:

Dawkins, R. 1998. Unweaving the Rainbow : Science, Delusion, and the Appetite for Wonder. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

McPherson, G.R. and DeStefano, S. 2002. Applied Ecology and Natural Resource Management. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

Weinberg, S. 2001. Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wilson, E.O. 1998. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. Knopf, New York.