Three leading conservationists argue for a new paradigm for nature protection, one that sheds a 19th-century vision of pristine wilderness in favor of one wherein "nature exists amidst a wide variety of modern, human landscapes."
Conservation's binaries -- growth or nature, prosperity or biodiversity -- have marginalized it in a world that will soon add at least two billion more people. In the developing world, efforts to constrain growth and protect forests from agriculture are unfair, if not unethical, when directed at the 2.5 billion people who live on less than two dollars a day and the one billion who are chronically hungry. By pitting people against nature, conservationists actually create an atmosphere in which people see nature as the enemy. If people don't believe conservation is in their own best interests, then it will never be a societal priority. Conservation must demonstrate how the fates of nature and of people are deeply intertwined -- and then offer new strategies for promoting the health and prosperity of both.