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Challenging Conservationists to Balance the Needs of People and Nature

Monday, Aug. 8, 2011

Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier of the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences have published the first textbook to explore the scientific foundations of conservation while highlighting strategies to better connect its practice with the needs and priorities of a human population that is growing by a quarter million people every day.

Conservation is a scientific enterprise and social movement that seeks to protect nature, including Earth’s animals, plants, and ecosystems. People all too often see conservation as being at odds with human well-being and economic development. Instead, it can and should be an important strategy for improving human health and welfare. Indeed, Kareiva and Marvier foresee conservation succeeding only if it finds a way to balance the needs of people and nature. Their book explores how conservation can protect nature, not from, but for people.

Because conservation is concerned with how humans live on the planet, passions about what needs to be done to achieve success run deep. In fact, the central theme of Kareiva and Marvier’s text—that conservationists must look beyond national parks and other protected areas, where human activity is restricted, to human-altered landscapes and the benefits that nature offers to society—has drawn fire from some conservationists. Conservation requires difficult choices and sacrifices, and Kareiva and Marvier guide their readers to confront those choices. Conservation Science: Balancing the Needs of People and Nature is published by Roberts and Co. and is now available.