The Idea of Biodiversity: Philosophies of Paradise

The Idea of Biodiversity: Philosophies of Paradise

by David Takacs

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The Idea of Biodiversity: Philosophies of Paradise by David Takacs

"At places distant from where you are, but also uncomfortably close," writes David Takacs, "a holocaust is under way. People are slashing, hacking, bulldozing, burning, poisoning, and otherwise destroying huge swaths of life on Earth at a furious pace." And a cadre of ecologists and conservation biologists has responded, vigorously promoting a new definition of nature: biodiversity--advocating it in Congress and on the Tonight Show; whispering it into the ears of foreign leaders; redefining the boundaries of science and politics, ethics and religion, nature and our ideas of nature. These scientists have infused the environmental movement with new focus and direction, but by engaging in such activities, they jeopardize the societal trust that allows them to be public spokespersons for nature in the first place.

The Idea of Biodiversity analyzes what biodiversity represents to the biologists who operate in broader society on its behalf, drawing on in-depth interviews with the scientists most active today in the mission to preserve biodiversity, including Peter Raven, Thomas Lovejoy, Jane Lubchenco, and Paul Ehrlich. Takacs explores how and why these biologists shaped the concept of biodiversity and promoted it to society at large--examining their definitions of biodiversity; their opinions about spirituality and its role in scientific work; the notion of biodiversity as something of intrinsic value; and their views on biophilia, E. O. Wilson's idea that humans are genetically predisposed to love nature. Takacs also looks at the work of twentieth-century forerunners of today's conservation biologists--Aldo Leopold, Charles S. Elton, Rachel Carson, David Ehrenfeld--and pointsout their contributions to the current debates. He takes readers to Costa Rica, where a group of scientists is using biodiversity to remake nature and society. And in an extended section, he profiles the thoughts and work of E. O. Wilson.

"When I'm asked, 'should we save this species orthat species, or this place or that place?' the answer is always 'Yes!' with an exclamation point. Because it's obvious. And if you ask me to justify it, then I switch into a more cognitive consciousness and can start giving you reasons, economic reasons, aesthetic reasons. They're all dualistic, in a sense. But the feeling that underlies it is that 'yes!' And that 'yes!' comes out of the affirmation of being part of it all, being part of this whole evolutionary process. And agreeing with Arne Naess that each species, each entity, should be allowed to continue its evolution and to live out its destiny... just do its thing, as we say. Why not? And the 'why not?' is there's too many people."--Michael E. Soule, from an interview in The Idea of Biodiversity "An important contribution, a first distanced examination of a critical, modern topic by a scholarly, honest broker."--E. O. Wilson, Harvard University

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801854002
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 01/28/1996
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 393
Product dimensions: 6.25(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.14(d)

About the Author

David Takacs is assistant professor in the Department of Earth Systems Science and Policy at California State University at Monterey Bay.

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