Are There Ethical Reasons to Preserve Biodiversity Against Local Communities?

  • Bila-Isia InogwabiniEmail author
Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 12)


The chapter is about the conflict between preserving biodiversity and fulfilling the basic human needs of local communities residing within and near protected areas. The chapter argues that local human communities should be allowed to exploit resources within and near protected areas even if that exploitation by human local communities is harmful to biodiversity. A claim is made that all types of biodiversity are not of equal value and do not matter at the same level; there are differences in functions; some species or ecosystems matter more than others. As a defense for this view appeal is made to biological concepts such as trophic levels, keystone species, hotspot areas, and the species redundancy, which all hierarchize biodiversity in different degrees of importance. The chapter also claims that the most convincing argument in defense of biodiversity conservation is to appeal to instrumental values. Biodiversity matters more to humans for the services it provides to human well-being than for any other reasons. In this sense, the argument runs that there might be ethical reasons why harmful human activities by local communities should be allowed. Several strands of arguments, including the biological species redundancy, the ethical notion of the sacredness of human life (right to life), the distributive justice (jus soli, rights of the first occupants and environmental justice) are used in the support the main claim of the chapter that regardless of circumstances, human local communities should be allowed to use natural resources. The chapter finally discusses the possible reconciliation between human basic needs and biodiversity, arguing that partial (at least) reconciliations are possible in most cases through possible hierarchizing harms, accounting for scales, and identifying trade-offs by agreeing with local communities, in a participative process, on what can be extracted by local communities.


Biodiversity conservation Human basic needs Local communities Distributive justice Reconciling incommensurable demands 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Research and Communication in Sustainable Development (CERED)The Jesuit Loyola University of CongoKinshasaCongo, Republic

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