PerspectiveConservation and Society

Sharing the land between nature and people

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Science  28 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6447, pp. 1226-1228
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax2608

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  • RE: Crespin's response - Conservation and Development Can Grow Together
    • Erle Ellis, Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    I am thankful for Crespin’s response to my perspective, as we both share the goal of improving societal conditions while conserving nature (1). But we do have one clear point of disagreement. Crespin argues that expanding conservation while sustaining societal development will require “curbing production” and “a different economic model that does away with constant growth”. In my view, this argument is both incorrect and a political impediment to broadening societal efforts to conserve nature.
    Experts broadly agree that the dietary demands of more than ten billion people will require substantial growth in agricultural production in the coming decades, especially to improve diets in regions now suffering dietary deficiencies and food insecurity (2, 3). Any future scenario requiring a global reduction in agricultural production is therefore both infeasible and indefensible with respect to basic principles of ethical governance. There may come a time later in this century, as populations stabilize and dietary demands are met, when global agricultural production might level off or even decline without issue. But any contemporary national or international policy framework built upon efforts to reduce agricultural production globally before such a time should and will be decried and resisted by people and nations around the world.
    Fortunately, at global scale, meeting societal demands for development while expanding conservation is not about curbing total agricultura...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Developing for human-nature coexistence
    • Silvio J Crespin, Postdoc Researcher / Ecologist, Laboratorio de Estudios del Antropoceno, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile

    Re: "Sharing the land between nature and people" Ellis, 1733-1736.

    Ellis in his perspective piece (1) advises that coexistence between production and conservation is possible by employing economies of scale to increase production of food and goods while decreasing costs. I partially agree, because I consider it a partial solution to the food security-biodiversity equation: in Ellis’ words, we should strive “…to develop better”.
    We have already scaled costs and production during the green revolution following the Borlaug hypothesis (2), but presently food production appears to be non-zero-sum, because it is currently meant to produce money. This creates the well-known Jevons paradox where consumption of the resource also increases as a result of the higher production capabilities (3, 4). Commodity consumption in one end of the globe drives production and biodiversity threats at the other (5). Thus, the other part of the equation lies in finding a different economic model that does away with constant growth in a never ending red-queen type race, perhaps one that emphasizes economic stability and hopefully the wellbeing of human society and nature. Ellis’ outlook regarding human population growth is optimistic because it supposes a limit to the amount of food required to sustain humans because population growth is projected to halt during this century, therefore only new levels of societal engagement with conservation efforts is needed. I surmise that a...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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