One solution is a type of Endangered Species Trust Fund, to promote conservation in ways more compatible with local values and culture. The fund might underwrite a variety of programmes, from ecological research to educational advertising to conservation assistance to outright land purchase. At the voluntary level it could encourage landowners to share their land with threatened species. The state of Wisconsin, USA, for example, has such a programme, which covers seven species on the federal endangered list. Landowners agree to a nonbinding protection plan, and are rewarded with a picture of the species, a certificate of appreciation, ongoing species management help. Where stronger support is needed, the trust fund could help subsidize conservation efforts by landowners. One possible model is a programme sponsored by the Defenders of Wildlife, a Washington-based conservation group, which offers $5,000 to each landowner who has an established wolf den on his or her property. The trust could also promote commercial practices that are environmentally friendlier but costlier than current practices. As many soil conservation services currently do for farmers and soil conservation, a Biological Conservation Service, funded by the trust, could encourage foresters, pastoralists, and miners to modify their activities, thus reducing -- though not eliminating -- harm to endangered species. In critical cases the trust fund would have the tools to restrict land use greatly, albeit in a noncoercive manner. For example, the US Nature Conservancy protects some biologically valuable land by paying for a conservation easement -- a legal contract that forbids developing a piece of property but allows the landowner to earn income through ecologically benign activities, such as certain types of agriculture. As a final resort, in places where almost any human activity threatens the other inhabitants, the trust fund could buy land and protect it as a biological preserve.
Moneyed interests, of course, will always threaten species and other environmental assets that cannot pay their way. The most appropriate counterweight is not to outlaw human nature but to award some money to environmental protection.
Rather than having the courage of our moral and cultural convictions, we too often rely on economic arguments for protecting nature, in the process attributing to natural objects more instrumental value than they have. By claiming that a threatened species may harbour lifesaving drugs, for example, we impute to that species an economic value or a price much greater than it fetches in a market. When we make the prices come out right, we rescue economic theory but not necessarily the environment.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a unique, experimental research work of the Union of International Associations. It is currently published as a searchable online platform with profiles of world problems, action strategies, and human values that are interlinked in novel and innovative ways. These connections are based on a range of relationships such as broader and narrower scope, aggravation, relatedness and more. By concentrating on these links and relationships, the Encyclopedia is uniquely positioned to bring focus to the complex and expansive sphere of global issues and their interconnected nature.
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