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Improving Biodiversity Policy: What Do We Need to Know?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Berge, Erling
Conference: Les Journées de l'Institut Français de la Biodiversité
Location: Tours, France
Conf. Date: December 18-20, 2002
Date: 2003
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/672
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: Europe
Subject(s): biodiversity--policy
environmental policy
governance and politics
moral hazard
political behavior
human behavior
causal theory
Abstract: "The paper considers the problems encountered in the political process of managing biodiversity. What does it take to change the current relations between humans and nature? Discussing this problem it is common to talk of nature and biodiversity as if human society were not part of nature. As a first cut at the problem this is permissible. But in this discussion we have to ask: what are the boundary assumptions we make about politics and society, and what are the boundary assumptions about nature and biodiversity? "By boundary assumptions I mean something like constitutive ideas. The ideas and conceptions we usually take for granted and help us delineate abstract phenomena from the background. Thus in talking about political systems and political processes our ideas are usually circumscribed by taking for granted that we talk about democratic polities and democratic political processes. Even if we know there are changing conceptions of what democracy means and even if we know there are different opinions of how best to achieve the ideal democracy, we do know it is different from tyranny or oligarchy or autocracy. In arguing about what policies need to be enacted to protect or use nature sustainable the boundary conditions of the political system excludes other systems of governance than democracy. Likewise the boundary around nature is taken to exclude humans and human activities. Thus nature is seen as threatened by human activities and in need of protection. "If nature and society are conceived in these ways, what do politicians need to know to protect nature? Do we know enough today to do so? If not, what is the lacking information? In a democratic polity there are limits to permissible actions. Given current understanding of the problem and available legitimate political actions, is it possible to protect nature? "Some say yes, it is just a lack of political will. Others say no, we need a new ecological morality among people before we can expect improvements. It will be argued that both answers underestimate the complexity of the interrelations of morality, political will and human activity."

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