Abstract of a Paper I prepared for the BEAN conference 2010. This marked the very last time I addressed an audience at Liverpool JMU, and was met generally with polite silence.
Conservation movements can focus on narrow concerns, but can also envisage radical changes to the world and its interpretation. The idea of conservation can be viewed as ephemeral and culturally specific, while the prospects of achieving objective measures for the kind of ultimate concerns that movements represent can appear limited. One source of critique is the apparent dichotomy between the concerns represented in the social sciences, which tend to view conservation as a political and cultural idea, and those in the natural sciences which seek an objective scale of technical values for conservation. This paper does not seek to resolve these issues, but speculates over the possible role of attempts to unite the human and natural sciences. The attempts to place biology as the unifying force, propounded through Wilson’s (1998) view of consilience, are considered, along with their implications for conservation. These are contrasted with Harvey’s (2000) view of geography as a unifying force. A counter-proposal is outlined, that sees a discipline of environmental management, enlarged beyond its partial and technical scope, as a candidate for unified understanding and action. The possible position of conservation movements within this sketched framework is considered.
Keywords: conservation; consilience; environmental management; environmentalism.
Here’s the whole paper: