Navigation Links
Philosopher brings human values to environmental decisions
Date:4/14/2010

AUSTIN, Texas When Conservation International began working with one of Indonesia's largest energy companies on an environmentally conscious development plan two years ago, the groups looked to a philosopher for guidance.

Sahotra Sarkar, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin and leader in the study of environmental ethics, worked with the conservationists and energy producers to develop strategies that balance economic development and biodiversity protection while respecting the needs of indigenous people.

"We really are talking about people's values," Sarkar says of his approach to environmental questions, "not just facts."

As the planet prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this month, Sarkar is among a growing group of scholars and environmentalists promoting the "social ecology" model of conservation that puts local values at the center in any decisions.

As a philosopher, Sarkar was first drawn to this idea by his interest in decision theory, which draws from mathematics and focuses on the values and variables people consider in making choices.

Sarkar rejects the so-called fortress model of preservation popular throughout much of the 20th century that espoused putting a fence around a region and making it off limits. And he dismisses the idea that environmentalists from developed countries know what's best for habitats around the world and can impose those values on less-developed regions.

"Local residents are privileged stakeholders," Sarkar, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, wrote in an article on the ethics and politics of conservation published last month in the journal Biological Conservation.

"Given that not every biotic feature can reasonably be targeted for protection, what we decide to protect must be a cultural choice," he wrote.

Such cultural choices vary among regions. And Sarkar's laboratory part of the Department of Philosophy and Section of Integrative Biology has created software that lets local stakeholders develop conservation plans based on their values and needs. Former graduate students Michael Ciarleglio and Trevon Fuller were instrumental in developing the program.

"It's important to have scholars with Sahotra's philosophical ability working on problems with such practical significance," says Philosophy Department Chair David Sosa. "He can approach his subject matter from so many different angles, and with so many tools, that he's able to make distinctive contributions. His teaching, which builds on that, is also excellent."

In Central Texas, Sarkar has worked closely with landowners and state officials to help protect endangered warblers and salamanders, among other species.

In Equatorial Guinea, he and colleagues have proposed a conservation plan that promotes biodiversity among plants, primates and birds in abandoned cocoa plantations.

And in Indonesia, he worked with Conservation International, PT Medco Energi and government officials to develop strategies to protect much of the habitat in the remote Meruake district. The company owns the rights to plant tree crops for paper pulp and biofuel and build associated infrastructure there.

Initially, Sarkar and the others aimed to protect at least 30 percent of each of the distinct habitats in the Meruake savanna and rainforest. Ultimately, they developed models that could protect 50 percent of the region from deforestation and development. The company is considering those models.

About a half dozen local communities need to maintain access to that land to hunt, gather food, build shelters and visit their sacred sites. Their needs were at the heart of the different proposals that Sarkar developed.

"Sahotra brought a mathematical brain, to the extent that philosophy is mathematics," says Chris Margules, vice president of the Asia Pacific Field Division at Conservation International. "He also brought an ethic that says we should live as sustainably as we can, given that sustainability really is a metaphor for how we should live our lives."


'/>"/>

Contact: Gary Susswein
susswein@austin.utexas.edu
512-471-4945
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Global Rainmakers Brings Cutting-Edge Biometric Security Products to Reality
2. Global Rainmakers Brings Cutting-Edge Biometric Security Products to Reality
3. Grant brings real-world science to Boston classrooms
4. International event brings worlds top cancer doctors to Queens
5. Lombardi scientist brings dream team breast cancer research effort to GUMC
6. Open-access membership: Reporting tool brings convenience and control
7. Cloud computing brings cost of protein research down to Earth
8. Winter brings flu, summer brings bacterial infections
9. Systems biology brings hope of speeding up drug development
10. Innovations in Pediatric Medicine International Conference brings together pediatrics experts
11. Innovations in Pediatric Medicine CME conference brings together national pediatrics experts
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/3/2017)... , April 3, 2017  Data ... precision engineering platform, detected a statistically significant ... product prior to treatment and objective response ... the potential to predict whether cancer patients ... to treatment, as well as to improve ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... CHICAGO , March 29, 2017  higi, the ... ecosystem in North America , today ... Partners and the acquisition of EveryMove. The new investment ... extensive set of tools to transform population health activities ... and lifestyle data. higi collects and secures ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 2017 Research and Markets has announced the ... & Trends - Industry Forecast to 2025" report to their ... The Global ... CAGR of around 15.1% over the next decade to reach approximately ... the market estimates and forecasts for all the given segments on ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/21/2017)... San Diego, CA (PRWEB) , ... May 20, ... ... decision support tool that helps avoid the lengthy trial and error process by ... for patients. It can also strengthen the doctor-patient relationship through a personalized ...
(Date:5/18/2017)... ... May 18, 2017 , ... Dr. Ralph Mobbs ... the Prince Of Wales Private Hospital. The procedure was performed on a 46-year-old ... failed conservative treatments prior to undergoing surgery. , The AxioMed viscoelastic disc is ...
(Date:5/18/2017)... ... May 17, 2017 , ... NDA Partners Chairman Carl ... CEO of Eurofins Advantar Laboratories and President of Pharmaceutical Development Business Unit of Cardinal ... at Eurofins and Cardinal Health, he was former Chief Operating Officer at Anaborex, Senior ...
(Date:5/18/2017)... SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA (PRWEB) , ... May 17, ... ... risk management, technological innovation and business process optimization firm for the life sciences ... the Chairman of the UDIs and Traceability for Medical Devices conference in Brussels, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: