TITLE: The Fall of the Wild: Extinction, De-extinction, & the Ethics of Conservation
AUTHOR: Ben A. Minteer
EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:
4 December 2018
FORMAT: ARC ebook
NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.
"The passenger pigeon, the great auk, the Tasmanian tiger—the memory of these vanished species haunts the fight against extinction. Seeking to save other creatures from their fate in an age of accelerating biodiversity loss, wildlife advocates have become captivated by a narrative of heroic conservation efforts. A range of technological and policy strategies, from the traditional, such as regulations and refuges, to the novel—the scientific wizardry of genetic engineering and synthetic biology—seemingly promise solutions to the extinction crisis.
In The Fall of the Wild, Ben A. Minteer calls for reflection on the ethical dilemmas of species loss and recovery in an increasingly human-driven world. He asks an unsettling but necessary question: Might our well-meaning efforts to save and restore wildlife pose a threat to the ideal of preserving a world that isn’t completely under the human thumb? Minteer probes the tension between our impulse to do whatever it takes and the risk of pursuing strategies that undermine our broader commitment to the preservation of wildness. From collecting wildlife specimens for museums and the wilderness aspirations of zoos to visions of “assisted colonization” of new habitats and high-tech attempts to revive long-extinct species, he explores the scientific and ethical concerns vexing conservation today. The Fall of the Wild is a nuanced treatment of the deeper moral issues underpinning the quest to save species on the brink of extinction and an accessible intervention in debates over the principles and practice of nature conservation."
This book focuses on the ethics, pros and cons, of a variety of conservation methods. Ben Minteer makes use of several popular examples to make his point. Examples and topics that make an appearance in this book include the Passenger Pigeon, Great Auk, Thylacine, Elephants, American Bison, Condors, specimen collecting of marginal species, captive breeding programmes, the future appearance of zoos (think Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs), species translocation, assisted colonization of endeangered species outside their usual range, resurrection science, and the limits of technological "fixes" to problems.
What the author has tried to promote in this book is an alternative environmental ethic, what he calls "pragmatic preservationism". This concept captures two core ideas regarding conservation" (1) the growing need to intervene more aggressively to save species in a rapidly changing environment; and (2) an acknowledgement of our resonsibility to preseve a convincing sense of the wild and a respect for nature as we implement (or not) these interventions.
While this isn't a particularly original or detailed examination of the topic, it does make for an interesting, well-written, thought-provoking, enjoyable and short introduction to conservation ethics, with no irrelevant biographical side tangents.