Environmental Protection and the Human Economy
- Historically, the typical human approach to ecosystems has been to
- Natural communities are not inherently simple: complex interactions
drive very complex dynamics
- Even monotypic stands of early-successional species are too complex
for us to predict or model
- Why have we tried to simplify nature?
- Limitations of the human brain, and simple mgmt. objectives (max.
forage for livestock or max. wood production for a growing nation)
- It is easy, but inappropriate, to blame past managers
- Food and fiber production are still (and will continue to be) a
primary "use" of natural communities (world population growth = nearly 75
million people/yr added to planet)
- Public and professional perception of environmental protection are
strongly influenced by:
- "food and fiber" production objectives have dominated management of
- the public and even other professionals have not
understood ecosystem dynamics and the importance of manipulating
ecosystems to achieve non-production objectives
- Social values are changing rapidly--faster than trees grow!
- Similarly, options for future flexibility should be incorporated into
- e.g., encourage natural resource managers to understand that
biodiversity is always
an important objective (not a constraint)
- biodiversity was suddenly thrust into the arena for natural resource
practitioners, and it is viewed as either a primary focus of management
or a threat
- There are good reasons to increase diversity (e.g., economic and
environmental benefits in the US are estimated at $300 billion/year;
Pimentel et al. 1997, cited below)
- There are specific steps to increase diversity in communities managed
for multiple use (adapted from Burton et al. 1992, cited below):
- take inventory
- identify several appropriate management units
- establish and monitor benchmarks
- promote diversity in artificially established stands (multiple
species, and multiple genotypes within species)
- explore alternatives (constantly push the envelope imposed by
traditional vegetation managers)
- reflect before acting
- In addition, you can help society set its
objectives by providing clear information on tradeoffs associated with
- Blindly implementing mgmt. plans, without questioning the
assumptions and tradeoffs, is no longer sufficient (perhaps it never
- Administrative structures are changing to reflect changing social
- One goal of most mgmt efforts should be sustainable management of
- Producing one or a few products for human consumption should be a
natural side-effect of appropriate management
- This, according to most proponents, is the goal of
"Ecosystem Management"--to sustain ecosystem processes, with "products"
as by-products of that management
- Can this work?
- Ultimately, humanity must answer the question about sustainability
Additional Information (also see assigned readings):
Burton, P.J., Balisky, A.C., Coward, L.P., Cumming, S.G., and Kneeshaw,
D.D. 1992. The value of managing for biodiversity. Forestry Chronicle
Callicott, J.B. and Mumford, K. 1997. Ecological sustainability as a
conservation concept. Conservation Biology 11:32-40.
Chua, A. (2003) World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds
Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. Doubleday, New York.
Florini, A. (2003) The Coming Democracy: New Rules for Running a New
World. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
Mason, C. (2003) The 2030 Spike: Countdown to Global Catastrophe.
Earthscan Publications, London.
Pew Oceans Commission, 2003, Americas Living Oceans: Charting a Course for
Sea Change. Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Pimentel, D., Wilson, C., McCullum, C., Huang, R., Dwen, P., Flack, J.,
Tran, Q., Saltman, T., and Cliff, B. 1997. Economic and environmental
benefits of biodiversity. BioScience 47:747-757.
Toman, M.A. and Ashton, P.M.S. 1996. Sustainable forest ecosystems and
management: a review article. Forest Science 42:366-377.
U.S. Census Bureau.