Political involvement is key to ecological conservation

Aaron M. Ellison offers three answers to the question: “How can scientists protect biodiversity?”

First, stop referring to anything that isn’t human as a ‘natural resource’. Language matters, and this language suggests that the existence of other species is predicated on the benefits they provide for us.

Second, acknowledge that better data rarely lead to ‘better’ decisions (or at least to those decisions we think we would make if we were in charge). No amount of data can overcome visceral negative responses to bats, spiders or snakes, or positive ones to pandas, pangolins or baby seals. Decisions about which species to save — and which to triage to extinction — are based on raw emotion, the views of many different stakeholders and myriad political calculations.

Third, more scientists must get actively involved in the political process. Calling, e-mailing and writing to political leaders is a small but necessary first step. Showing up for seemingly endless political meetings is a larger but necessary follow-up.

Scientists studying ozone depletion and climate change have shown that getting involved directly in the decision-making process can give scientists a place at the global table and a voice to help effect political change. Scientists who both study biodiversity and want to see other species persist and thrive must follow their example.

Read the full article in Nature