Agriculture and biodiversity: Finding our place in this world

Abstract

Agriculture has been recently viewed as the primary destructive force of biodiversity, but the places that produce our food and fiber may also hold the key to saving the richness of life on earth. This argument is based on three fundamental positions. First, it is argued that to value and thereby preserve and restore biodiversity we must begin by employing anthropocentric ethics. While changing our understanding of intrinsic values (i.e., the unconditional values of biodiversity as a state and process in-and-of-itself, without reference to human interests) is often advocated as the means by which our behavior will reflect the importance of biodiversity, a change in how we perceive and conditionally value biodiversity is proposed as a more effective and compelling approach. Second, I suggest that anthropocentric values can be linked to a sense of “Place,” with agriculture playing a vital role in this context. Agriculture forms a powerful basis for personal, experiential development of a profound meaning and connection to a setting or landscape. The agricultural setting has tremendous potential for arational (emotional, aesthetic, and spiritual) values that ultimately compel our actions. The constancy of relationship and mutuality of dependency between humans and agricultural lands, particularly extensive agroecosystems, fosters an intensity of association that transcends our recent affinity to wildlands. Third, a mature understanding of places and their biodiversity must include those organisms that account for many of the ecological processes and the majority of the species richness -- the insects. The importance of these insects in structuring the landscape and the effects of habitat destruction on these organisms both suggest a vital, intimate, and reciprocal link between insects and Places. Finally, it is argued that the most important avenue for future efforts to protect and restore biodiversity on the part of agricultural and other scientists is educational -- the presentation of our research to the public in terms that provoke emotional, aesthetic, and spiritual meaning which lies at the core of human values and actions.

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Lockwood, J.A. Agriculture and biodiversity: Finding our place in this world. Agriculture and Human Values 16, 365–379 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007699717401

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  • Biodiversity
  • Human ecology
  • Anthropocentrism
  • Native
  • Biophilia
  • Arational values
  • Place