Conservation and resource management
'Wild nature is in deep distress, and whatever their occasional protestations, the international institutions charged with Earth's care are not managing it with an eye on 'sustainability'. Rising that challenge will test the limits of diplomacy and development', wrote Steven Sanderson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society. These words are not only true for wildlife but also for natural resources and their management. Global losses in biodiversity and wild places are not the stuff of 'environmental alarmism'; rather they describe our world today. This is detailed in volumes of scientific evidence. Although long term impact can be computed in economic terms, the results of such computation will not be the truth: it would represent much more.
As for wildlife, conservation science falls into two basic categories: (a) threat assessment and (b) the analysis of small populations of animals. The two basic categories can as well be applied to natural resources, for there is a threat to these resources which (the threat) has to be assessed and there is need to analyse the small, limited amounts of resources available for use and to examine the possibilities for conservation. One of the results of the two activities above was the creation of various kinds of protected areas. The focus of the conservation community has been on setting aside ecologically important marine and terrestrial areas, reducing the over-harvesting of wildlife, lessening the pollution of fragile lands and waters, and protecting long term ecological processes.
Also fitful cooperation between scientists and inter-governmental organizations have resulted in some important conservation achievements over the years, namely, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Atmospheric Nuclear Test Ban, Bio-safety Protocol, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Creation of World Heritage Sites. But these have not added up to great successes, rather a tenuous grip on the global political agenda.
The blame for little success must rest with the developing as well as the developed countries. The former have shied away from their post-Rio (de Janeiro, Brazil) obligations but they do contribute to much future growth in fossil-fuel consumption and natural resources use. The latter have been going out of their to capture and use world's natural resources for their own economic ends, knowing that diminishing returns have been operative for long. Besides, they use natural resources far in excess of their needs and in the bargain deprive the developing countries their right to use their own. Having said these words, let us now turn to conservation and preservation and look at them in a historical way.