Some Inconvenient Implications

  • Donald S. Maier
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 19)


This chapter steps back to take a broader view of commonly held beliefs about the “good” of biodiversity. It derives from them some implications that undermine the plausibility of the premise that biodiversity is a key to nature’s value. Section 7.1 explores the discomfiting implication that egalitarianism with respect to biodiversity’s categories lets all the bad boys into the club along with the good. Section 7.2 examines how embracing biodiversity as an unalloyed good authorizes science projects, which seek to build “snow-globe” worlds detached from, and even antithetical to, the natural world. Section 7.3 fills in many considerations that are routinely omitted from, and bias discussions of, how the value of biodiversity and the possibility of an ongoing “great extinction” relates to human timeframes. Section 7.4 attempts to get a handle on endemic confusions, including attempts to squeeze some value out of biodiversity by conflating biodiversity with what it is not. Finally, Sect. 7.5 suggests that the various considerations of this chapter present a cautionary sign for philosophers, scientists, and environmentalists who stake their defense of nature’s value on its biodiversity.


Species Diversity Natural World Polar Bear Conservation Biologist Future Person 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Ackerman, J., Bluso-Demers, J., Herzog, M., Robinson-Nilson, C., and Herring, G. (2010), “Impact of Salt Pond Restoration on California Gull Displacement and Predation on Breeding Waterbirds: Annual Report – December 2010”, USGS and San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory,
  2. Burke, M.K., Dunham, J.P., Shahrestani, P., Thornton, K.R., Rose, M.R., and Long, A.D. (2010), “Genome-Wide Analysis of a Long-Term Evolution Experiment with Drosophila”, Nature, 467(7315): 587–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carroll, S.B. (2010), “Hybrids May Thrive Where Parents Fear to Tread”, The New York Times, September 13, 2010,
  4. Choi, Y.D. (2007), “Restoration Ecology to the Future: A Call for New Paradigm”, Restoration Ecology, 15(2): 351–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dean, C. (2008), “The Preservation Predicament”, The New York Times, January 29, 2008,
  6. Donlan, C.J., Berger, J., Bock, C.E., Bock, J.H., Burney, D.A., Estes, J.A., Foreman, D., Martin, P.S., Roemer, G.W., Smith, F.A., Soulé, M.E., and Greene, H.W. (2006), “Pleistocene Rewilding: An Optimistic Agenda for Twenty-First Century Conservation”, The American Naturalist, 168(5): 660–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ehrlich, P.R., Daily, G.C., Daily, S.C., Myers, N., and Salzman, J. (1997), “No Middle Way on the Environment”, The Atlantic Monthly, 280(6): 98-104, Scholar
  8. Ellis, E.C. and Ramankutty, N. (2008), “Putting People in the Map: Anthropogenic Biomes of the World”, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 6(8): 439–447,
  9. Erwin, D.H. (1993), The Great Paleozoic Crisis: Life and Death in the Permian, Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fackler, M. (2009), “Coral Transplant Surgery Prescribed for Japan”, The New York Times, April 14, 2009,
  11. Harris, J.A., Hobbs, R.J., Higgs, E., and Aronson, J. (2006) “Ecological Restoration and Global Climate Change”, Restoration Ecology, 14(2): 170–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. He, F. and Hubbell, S.P. (2011), “Species-Area Relationships Always Overestimate Extinction Rates from Habitat Loss”, Nature, 473(7347): 368–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jamieson, D. (2002), “Ecosystem Health: Some Preventive Medicine”, in Morality’s Progress: Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 213–224.Google Scholar
  14. Janzen, D. (1998), “Gardenification of Wildland Nature and the Human Footprint”, Science, 279(5355): 1312–1313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jenkins, M. (2003), “Prospects for Biodiversity”, Science, 302(5648): 1175–1177, in V. Wagner, ed. (2008), Endangered Species, Greenhaven Press, 53–60.Google Scholar
  16. Judson, O. (2008a), “A Natural Selection”, The Wild Side, in The New York Times, July 22, 2008,
  17. Judson, O. (2008b), “Resurrection Science”, The Wild Side, in The New York Times, November 25, 2008,
  18. Kifner, J. (1994), “Stay-at-Home SWB, 8, Into Fitness, Seeks Thrills”, The New York Times, July 2, 1994,
  19. Lazaris, A., Arcidiacono, S., Huang, Y., Zhou, J., Duguay, F., Chretien, N., Welsh, E.A., Soares, J.W., and Karatzas, C.N. (2002), “Spider Silk Fibers Spun from Soluble Recombinant Silk Produced in Mammalian Cells”, Science 295(5554): 472–476. For a non-technical summary, see
  20. Marris, E. (2008), “Moving on Assisted Migration”, Nature Reports Climate Change, 2(9): 112–113, Scholar
  21. Nash, M. (2009), “Bring in the Cows”, High Country News, 41(9): 8–9, 23,
  22. Normile, D. (2009), “Bringing Coral Reefs Back from the Living Dead”, Science, 325(5940): 559–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Palmer, M., Bernhardt, E., Chornesky, E., Collins, S., Dobson, A., Duke, C., Gold, B., Jacobson, R., Kingsland, S., Kranz, R., Mappin, M., Martinez, M.L., Micheli, F., Morse, J., Pace, M., Pascual, M., Palumbi, S., Reichman, O.J., Simons, A., Townsend, A., Turner, M. (2004), “Ecology for a Crowded Planet”, Science, 304(5675): 1251–1252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pritchard, J.K., Pickrell, J.K., and Coop, G. (2010), “The Genetics of Human Adaptation: Hard Sweeps, Soft Sweeps, and Polygenic Adaptation”, Current Biology, 20(4): R208–R215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rosner, H. (2010), “One Tough Sucker”, High Country News, 42(10): 12–18, Scholar
  26. Satz, D. (2010), Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Sommer, L. (2011), “Gulls Threaten South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Work”, KQED Quest,
  28. Soulé, M. (1990), “The Onslaught of Alien Species, and Other Challenges in the Coming Decades”, Conservation Biology, 4(3): 233–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Spicer, J. (2006), Biodiversity: A Beginner’s Guide”, Oneworld Publications.Google Scholar
  30. The Nature Conservancy. (2011), “ Super Sucker Saves Reefs: Underwater Vacuum Removes Invasive Algae”,
  31. Tingley, R., Phillips, B.L., and Shine, R. (2011), “Establishment Success of Introduced Amphibians Increases in the Presence of Congeneric Species”, The American Naturalist, 177(3): 382–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wade, N. (2010a), “Scientists Cite Fastest Case of Human Evolution”, The New York Times, July 1, 2010,
  33. Wade, N. (2010b), “Adventures in Very Recent Evolution”, The New York Times, July 19, 2010,
  34. Wade, N. (2010c), “Natural Selection Cuts Broad Swath Through Fruit Fly Genome”, The New York Times, September 20, 2010,
  35. Wilson, E.O. (2002), The Future of Life, Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  36. Yi X, Liang Y, Huerta-Sanchez E, Jin X, Cuo ZX, Pool JE, Xu X, Jiang H, Vinckenbosch N, Korneliussen TS, Zheng H, Liu T, He W, Li K, Luo R, Nie X, Wu H, Zhao M, Cao H, Zou J, Shan Y, Li S, Yang Q, Asan, Ni P, Tian G, Xu J, Liu X, Jiang T, Wu R, Zhou G, Tang M, Qin J, Wang T, Feng S, Li G, Huasang, Luosang J, Wang W, Chen F, Wang Y, Zheng X, Li Z, Bianba Z, Yang G, Wang X, Tang S, Gao G, Chen Y, Luo Z, Gusang L, Cao Z, Zhang Q, Ouyang W, Ren X, Liang H, Zheng H, Huang Y, Li J, Bolund L, Kristiansen K, Li Y, Zhang Y, Zhang X, Li R, Li S, Yang H, Nielsen R, Wang J, Wang J. (2010), “Sequencing of 50 Human Exomes Reveals Adaptation to High Altitude”, Science, 329(5987): 75–78.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald S. Maier
    • 1
  1. 1.CampbellUSA

Personalised recommendations