An Expanded Approach to the Problem of Disappearing Species

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  16 Jul 1976:
Vol. 193, Issue 4249, pp. 198-202
DOI: 10.1126/science.193.4249.198


Assistance for disappearing species is at present too localized and dispersed to make much impact on the problem with its growing dimensions. Species are threatened primarily because of their status as common property. Institutional deficiencies, notably those of free markets and property rights, promote depletion of species. Conversely, present institutional mechanisms offer little scope for society to express its preferences for goods without price or to establish responsibility for common-heritage resources. The situation postulates corrective measures on the part of collective authority at the international level. These measures would require a joint commitment by the developed and developing worlds, on a scale to reflect the increasingly interdependent needs and opportunities of the community at large. Whether the community perceives itself as a community or not, it functions as such in many of its ecological relationships and economic interactions. The community will sooner or later be obliged to respond to the problem of vanishing species: either sooner, through protective measures of sufficient scope, or later, when it finds that the disappearance of large numbers of species represents a loss through which it is indivisibly impoverished.