Its Us or Them: the Conservation Trade Off


“Conservation. The act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay,     waste, or loss; preservation: conservation of wildlife; conservation of human rights.”1


Human kind has had a massive impact on the biodiversity of our earth through exploiting resources for our ever changing life styles2. It seems like every corner of the earth has been affected2.  If humans are causing ecosystem destruction, surely the route to restoration is to remove the risk of people to safeguard pockets of our endangered world? This traditional view of conservation is based on the idea of ‘intrinsic value’; that every organism has an equal right to exist3. However, here lies the fundamental problem with traditional conservation theory; the creation of these nature reserves and national parks often comes at a price to indigenous people who have lived off the land for generations4. Expulsion and exclusion from resources has created 14 million ‘conservation refugees’ in Africa alone5. In 2004, the International Forum on Indigenous Mapping concluded that the largest threat to indigenous lands were conservation bodies themselves6. Is this truly conservation if the existence of one populations comes at the price of another?


On top of this, it doesn’t seem to actually be working. Despite a 207902 increase in the number of protected sites since 1950, biodiversity continues to decline 7 8. According to Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier and Robert Lalasz, nature reserves only create “Islands of ‘pristine nature’ in a sea of profound human transformations to the landscape through logging, agriculture, mining, damming and urbanisation.”9. Conservation need to fully embrace the idea of intrinsic valuation. Conservation and culture cannot be viewed separately. It must include humans for it to be successful, and become a way of life.

Thankfully, the community based conservation ball started rolling in the 1980s9. Community based conservation offers an alternative where people and nature can live together, to each others benefit9.  Rather than viewing people as the problem, they are viewed as the solution. Indigenous people either voluntary run or are incorporated into the conservation efforts where their rights and practices are honoured. This represents the best chance to halt biodiversity loss in developing countries10. It decreases the large financial cost of effective conservation and provided a better quality of life for local people11. Community based conservation represents the equal valuation of life. Although it is still a developing field, it represents a move away from ‘fire-fighting’ conservation and a more sustainable way of life.


paterson 3

By Christie Paterson





  1. com., 2015. Conservation.[online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 November 2015].


  1. Ellis, E.C., 2011. Anthropogenic transformation of the terrestrial biosphere. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 396(1), pp.1010-35.


  1. Soulé, M.E., 1985. What is Conservation Biology? Bioscience, 35(11), pp. 727-734.


  1. United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre., 2015. World Database on Protected Areas. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 November 2015].


  1. Dowie, M., 2009. Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples. Boston: MIT Press. 12.


  1. Naughton-Treves, L., Holland, M.B., Brandon, K., 2005. The Role of Protected Areas in Conserving Biodiversity and Sustaining Local Livelihoods. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 30(1), pp.219-252.


  1. Dowie, Mark., 2005. “Conservation Refugees.” Orion Online, [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 November 2015].


  1. Protected Planet., 2015. 2014 United Nations List of Protected Areas. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 November 2015].


  1. Kareiva, P., Marvier, M., Lalasz, R., 2012. Conservation in the Anthropocene; Beyond Solitutude and Fragility. The Breakthrough, [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 November 2015].


  1. Agrawal, A., Redford, K., 2009. Conservation and displacement: An overview. Conservation and Society, 7(1), pp. 1.


  1. Mehta, J.N., Kellert, S.R., 2002. Local Attitudes towards community-based conservation policy and programmes in Nepal: a case study in the Makalu-Barun Conservation Area. Environmental Conservation, 1(4), pp. 320-333.



One thought on “Its Us or Them: the Conservation Trade Off

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s