Issues of demand and consumption

The impact of economic factors on conservation must be recognized as well. As mentioned earlier, human poverty undercuts conservation programs near many of the world's biodiversity hotspots, but economic factors can affect conservation even from a distance. Research on west Africa's bush-meat trade shows that if markets for meat are exclusively local, the impact of hunting is relatively limited. However, if bush-meat becomes a commodity in a nation's general capitalist economy (if, for example, a market for bushmeat develops in a large city), then demand for forest animals becomes practically unlimited, and vulnerable species may be hunted to extinction. Similarly (here a non-mammalian example), the perilous condition of Southeast Asia's hitherto magnificent chelonian fauna is primarily a function of China's emergence as the regional economic superpower—and of China's insatiable demand for turtle products. Sometimes economic influences can be somewhat less direct. An analysis of the Japanese whaling industry in the 1950s and 1960s indicated that commercial species could be harvested at reasonable profits indefinitely, on a sustained-yield basis. However, the rate of whale-replenishment (r in the population growth equations) was slower than the rate of Japan's economic growth. Therefore, it made good business-sense for commercial whalers to "liquidate their investments" in whales (i.e., to hunt them out) and reinvest their yen in sectors of the Japanese economy yielding higher rates of "interest."

It is hoped that many conservation-and-economics dilemmas may eventually yield to analysis by economically sophisticated conservation biologists—or even by "conservation economists." That is, sustainable development programs combining people, profits, and wildlife may yet save the day. However, in the long run Wise or Knowing Man must develop a new conservation ethic—of sharing, sacrifice, appreciation, and awe—if an appreciable portion of mammalian biodiversity is to be preserved. In other words, why read Phillips and Abercrombie instead of re-reading Aldo Leopold (A Sand County Almanac first published in 1949) and Archie Carr?

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