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Conservation refers to the process of protecting and carefully managing one’s natural resources or environment. However, this requires human intervention. A common conservation effort is soil protection against erosion. Preservation, on the other hand, refers to the act of safekeeping or safeguarding against potential harm. It entails leaving things as they are rather than changing them for the better.
Differences between the two concepts
Preservation considers human agency as a problem because it will interfere with the way things are naturally. Therefore, preservation ethics attempts to keep human beings away from the natural environment. It is governed by the noninterference philosophy.
On the other hand, conservation ethics presumes that human beings can make a great contribution towards the sustenance of the ecosystem and it, therefore, depends upon man to make things work. Therefore, man is a manager of the environment in conservation while the environment itself is its manager in preservation ethics.
This is the reason why a lot of restriction is advocated for by preservations who will seclude a certain area away from hum interaction. It is assumed that humans tend to destroy their environment, so they need to be kept away (Jamieson, 2001). In certain circumstances, a particular area of the environment may exhibit a kind of imbalance.
Here, human beings can harvest certain species to restore that equilibrium. For example, in an area that had a certain rare plant species, a predating plant may come up that reduces nutrients available to the rare plant species. In those scenarios, a man may intervene if he is a conservation ethicist because his goal may be to restore the balance in that area.
Such interventions are not prevalent in preservation ethics because it is assumed that nature will take care of itself. The one thing that brings both conservation and preservation ethicists together is the fact that they both have an altruistic goal which is to ensure that the environment remains intact (Taylor, 1981).
In my area, a natural resource that can be preserved is a nearby river. This resource would benefit from preservation more than conservation because human interference is the biggest problem here. Humans tend to fish in those waters thus depleting the natural population of fish in the area and upsetting the ecosystem.
To maintain the balance, it will be essential to minimize the rate of activities that go on in this area. Sometimes it may be necessary to disregard both preservation and conservation ethics. Development ethics may sometimes be appropriate when too much emphasis is given to natural resources at the expense of human lives.
The challenge with preservation and conservation ethics is that these points of view tend to look at man as a kind of cancer to his environment. In certain circumstances, these environmentalists may advocate for nature and its preservation over and above human needs like hunger, In other words, such philosophies then become misanthropic because they infringe upon people who are not in a position to protect themselves as they are poor.
Conservation and preservation may seem elitist when individuals are in dire need. Development ethics solves this problem because it focuses on human good but still emphasizes the importance of sustainability. It postulates a theory that is workable even for the poorest on the planet.
Main differences between conservation and preservation arise owing to their view on the role of human intervention. Sometimes these two theories may be inappropriate when they prioritize nature over basic human needs.
Jamieson, D. (2001). A companion to environmental philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell
Taylor, P. (1981). Ethics of respect for nature. Environmental ethics, 3, 197-218