Ethics of wildlife conservation
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18-08-2013, 05:30 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 05:05 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  But why is it a concern from a purely natural perspective...?

Because broadly speaking a greater ecological and genetic diversity is advantageous?

(18-08-2013 05:18 PM)DLJ Wrote:  The 'why' is that we can play god because, well, we are god.

The argument for not destroying the rain-forests (apart from the CO2 stuff) is that there is as yet undiscovered and unstudied DNA that might be beneficial for humanity.

The same does not apply for animals.

You're really talking to a different point with that. The difference is in the specific motive - the difference between getting rid of something, and preventing something from being gotten rid of. To throw out a somewhat overwrought metaphor - backing one side in a civil war is not the same as backing the other. Sure, it's still intervention, but...

It's not like I particularly care about some cats in Scotland, but I'm obviously not the one making the decisions.

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18-08-2013, 05:37 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
But surely interbreeding between the two is ultimately beneficial to the species... characteristics being inherited from both groups, and natural selection doing the rest?

It's not true hybridism in the same way as a mule, the offspring of these so called "hybrid" cats are fertile...

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19-08-2013, 12:39 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
The human race seems to have 2 problems that it does not seem to understand very well.

1. We generally do not consider ourselves to be part of the natural world, when we are. So conservationalists see the cats that were introduced to Scotland through human intervention as an unnatural act, which it is not. There are many examples of animals migrating naturally from region to region that also bring with them other species of animals (albeit unknowingly), somehow when humans do it, it is unnatural. It's not the same as a truely unnatural act where we were paving over the animals' habitat to build an industrial park or something.

2. Humans seem to think that any type of change is bad and that the planet should somehow stop changing now that humans are here, and we should try and stop any type of change and prevent the extinction of anything.

Like over in Manitoba :

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/m...61851.html

Where apparently some area of sand dunes is disappearing due to the natural encroachment of vegetation, and they are actually considering spraying herbicides to save the sandhills!

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19-08-2013, 12:44 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 02:02 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  After watching a documentary earlier on the conservation of Britain's native wildlife, I've been thinking. Part of the show focused on Scottish Wildcats, which are "under threat" from breeding with feral domestic cats. Essentially the so called hybrids are wild cats with markings similar to domestic animals, otherwise they are still wildcats.

Since watching the show I've been reading about how in Scotland a program of DNA analysis is being carried out to ascertain which wildcats are "pure" and which aren't. Those deemed "impure" are having their breeding controlled, in some cases being neutered or physically separated from the so called "pure" cats.

Without this, the wildcats won't actually go extinct, but simply the DNA of domestic cats will enter the gene-pool and alter their characteristics slightly. The changes are so subtle that mere visual identification is too unreliable to distinguish between "pure" and "impure" cats...

To me this talk of "purity" seems a lot like Nazism applied to nature... and makes me feel very uncomfortable. Surely, whether you're religious or not, we can agree that it is not our place to define what should or shouldn't be in nature?

I just find it very sad, that these people cannot appreciate a living thing for what it is, and have to label it "pure" or "impure", and then try to alter it to suit their definition of what it should look like.

There is actually an even more fundamental problem with conservation (I made a thread about a specific example too: http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...or-why-not )

What are we conserving it to? The goal is to return it to a natural state. But which state is natural? 100 years ago? 1000? Before human influence? Does that negate the natural actions of man that may shape selection pressures and processes?

We apply value to aesthetics and conditions that are favorable for us, but not necessarily for all other species. Conservation may mean doing things we not only can't do, but would be completely unwilling to do if we could.

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19-08-2013, 12:50 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(19-08-2013 12:39 PM)unsapien Wrote:  The human race seems to have 2 problems that it does not seem to understand very well.

1. We generally do not consider ourselves to be part of the natural world, when we are. So conservationalists see the cats that were introduced to Scotland through human intervention as an unnatural act, which it is not. There are many examples of animals migrating naturally from region to region that also bring with them other species of animals (albeit unknowingly), somehow when humans do it, it is unnatural. It's not the same as a truely unnatural act where we were paving over the animals' habitat to build an industrial park or something.

2. Humans seem to think that any type of change is bad and that the planet should somehow stop changing now that humans are here, and we should try and stop any type of change and prevent the extinction of anything.

Like over in Manitoba :

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/m...61851.html

Where apparently some area of sand dunes is disappearing due to the natural encroachment of vegetation, and they are actually considering spraying herbicides to save the sandhills!

I agree with both points.

We are a natural product of this planet, so to draw a line under everything we do, and everything nature does is ludicrous. I think it's dangerous for us to believe we are separate from nature... It breeds complacency, until the earth gives us a good kick up the arse and reminds us who's boss.

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19-08-2013, 01:01 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(19-08-2013 12:44 PM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  
(18-08-2013 02:02 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  After watching a documentary earlier on the conservation of Britain's native wildlife, I've been thinking. Part of the show focused on Scottish Wildcats, which are "under threat" from breeding with feral domestic cats. Essentially the so called hybrids are wild cats with markings similar to domestic animals, otherwise they are still wildcats.

Since watching the show I've been reading about how in Scotland a program of DNA analysis is being carried out to ascertain which wildcats are "pure" and which aren't. Those deemed "impure" are having their breeding controlled, in some cases being neutered or physically separated from the so called "pure" cats.

Without this, the wildcats won't actually go extinct, but simply the DNA of domestic cats will enter the gene-pool and alter their characteristics slightly. The changes are so subtle that mere visual identification is too unreliable to distinguish between "pure" and "impure" cats...

To me this talk of "purity" seems a lot like Nazism applied to nature... and makes me feel very uncomfortable. Surely, whether you're religious or not, we can agree that it is not our place to define what should or shouldn't be in nature?

I just find it very sad, that these people cannot appreciate a living thing for what it is, and have to label it "pure" or "impure", and then try to alter it to suit their definition of what it should look like.

There is actually an even more fundamental problem with conservation (I made a thread about a specific example too: http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...or-why-not )

What are we conserving it to? The goal is to return it to a natural state. But which state is natural? 100 years ago? 1000? Before human influence? Does that negate the natural actions of man that may shape selection pressures and processes?

We apply value to aesthetics and conditions that are favorable for us, but not necessarily for all other species. Conservation may mean doing things we not only can't do, but would be completely unwilling to do if we could.

You're right... it's something I never thought of.

Since Darwin came along, we know that nature is dynamic, changing all the time. How can we possibly know how much of an impact our species has had over the millenia?

I'm personally in favor of non-intervention.

Recently a tree disease called Ash Die-back has been infecting British woodlands. I'm sure that the best solution is to allow the disease to run it's course through the population, natural selection means that surviving trees will pass on their immunity and eventually replace the infected trees.

But the Woodland Trust's solution is to cut and burn huge portions of woodland where the disease has found. The last time this happened was when Dutch Elm disease was sweeping the country... mass burning of infected trees means the Elm is virtually extinct in Britain now.

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19-08-2013, 01:07 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(19-08-2013 01:01 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  
(19-08-2013 12:44 PM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  There is actually an even more fundamental problem with conservation (I made a thread about a specific example too: http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...or-why-not )

What are we conserving it to? The goal is to return it to a natural state. But which state is natural? 100 years ago? 1000? Before human influence? Does that negate the natural actions of man that may shape selection pressures and processes?

We apply value to aesthetics and conditions that are favorable for us, but not necessarily for all other species. Conservation may mean doing things we not only can't do, but would be completely unwilling to do if we could.

You're right... it's something I never thought of.

Since Darwin came along, we know that nature is dynamic, changing all the time. How can we possibly know how much of an impact our species has had over the millenia?

I'm personally in favor of non-intervention.

Recently a tree disease called Ash Die-back has been infecting British woodlands. I'm sure that the best solution is to allow the disease to run it's course through the population, natural selection means that surviving trees will pass on their immunity and eventually replace the infected trees.

But the Woodland Trust's solution is to cut and burn huge portions of woodland where the disease has found. The last time this happened was when Dutch Elm disease was sweeping the country... mass burning of infected trees means the Elm is virtually extinct in Britain now.

Precisely my point.

Conservation may mean nonintervention and even moving away from areas that humans invade for reasons other than survival (like snorkeling on a reef).

As well as allowing things to return to states we don't find appealing or aesthetically pleasing. (not all reefs are nice places for humans to go)

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19-08-2013, 04:57 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(19-08-2013 01:07 PM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  
(19-08-2013 01:01 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  You're right... it's something I never thought of.

Since Darwin came along, we know that nature is dynamic, changing all the time. How can we possibly know how much of an impact our species has had over the millenia?

I'm personally in favor of non-intervention.

Recently a tree disease called Ash Die-back has been infecting British woodlands. I'm sure that the best solution is to allow the disease to run it's course through the population, natural selection means that surviving trees will pass on their immunity and eventually replace the infected trees.

But the Woodland Trust's solution is to cut and burn huge portions of woodland where the disease has found. The last time this happened was when Dutch Elm disease was sweeping the country... mass burning of infected trees means the Elm is virtually extinct in Britain now.

Precisely my point.

Conservation may mean nonintervention and even moving away from areas that humans invade for reasons other than survival (like snorkeling on a reef).

As well as allowing things to return to states we don't find appealing or aesthetically pleasing. (not all reefs are nice places for humans to go)

There's a bunch who say woodland has to be "managed"... initially I thought that simply meant preventing it from encroaching onto farmland, or keeping paths clear. But it isn't, it's all about destroying nettles and brambles and clearing dead leaves... making the place look "tidy".

There was a documentary on a while back called "Conservation's Dirty Secrets"... it showed how the WWF and similar organizations are only interested in cuddly, cute animals, overlooking and diverting funds away from many keystone species, simply because they don't "sell".

I suppose it's the "All Things Bright And Beautiful" fallacy... we want nature to be beautiful, but we forget that there's nasty stuff out there too which is equally important.

The stars are matter, we are matter... but it doesn't matter. - Captain Beefheart
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19-08-2013, 05:14 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(19-08-2013 04:57 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  There was a documentary on a while back called "Conservation's Dirty Secrets"... it showed how the WWF and similar organizations are only interested in cuddly, cute animals, overlooking and diverting funds away from many keystone species, simply because they don't "sell".

That's... kind of a backwards and uncharitable interpretation, isn't it?

They're supported by donations. Part of their job is soliciting. Given an inability to fund everything they'd like, the rational choice is to work towards those goals which will allow the organization to perpetuate itself.

It's unfortunate, but you can hardly blame them.

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19-08-2013, 06:21 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(19-08-2013 05:14 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(19-08-2013 04:57 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  There was a documentary on a while back called "Conservation's Dirty Secrets"... it showed how the WWF and similar organizations are only interested in cuddly, cute animals, overlooking and diverting funds away from many keystone species, simply because they don't "sell".

That's... kind of a backwards and uncharitable interpretation, isn't it?

They're supported by donations. Part of their job is soliciting. Given an inability to fund everything they'd like, the rational choice is to work towards those goals which will allow the organization to perpetuate itself.

It's unfortunate, but you can hardly blame them.

The point the documentary highlighted was the fact that WWF are pouring money into the conservation of animals that either don't need it, or are in terminal decline. Meanwhile there are keystone species that require a conservation effort from large groups such as WWF, but are not receiving any funding. The WWF isn't even highlighting the fact that they exist.

I would link to the film, but it's been taken down by Channel 4.

The Dominican Mountain Chicken (a frog) is one of those featured. It's numbers have declined dramatically and without a serious conservation effort, it will go extinct, dragging many other species with it. But the major conservation groups are not interested.

This is a clip from the docu...




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