Ecology, Policy and Politics

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Ecologists have written much about the culling of wildlife from an ecological and conservation perspective Caughley , Jewell et al. The recommendations for culling as a method for reducing overabundant wildlife populations are typically scientifically well established and sensitive to animal welfare. The problem of overabundance usually arises when humans make changes that permit a species to become so numerous locally that it is having an adverse effect on its food supply, its competitors, or the integrity of the ecosystem it occupies. Once overabundance is recognized, the management issue is to determine which methods should be used to reduce abundance to a suitable level.

Culling is only one option for removing wildlife, and animals may be captured and moved elsewhere if that is possible or sterilized to prevent reproduction and further increase Liu et al. All these policy issues are subject to open public debate and these debates are often heated because of different belief systems. Animal rights advocates may push the assumption that we humans have no rights to kill any wildlife at all. News media often concentrate on the most stringent views on controlling populations that are overabundant, and public discussion becomes impossible.

Two aspects need to be noted that are often lost in any discussion. First is the cost of alternatives in dollars and cents. As an example, most ecologists would agree that wild horses are overabundant on open range in western United States Davies et al. Culling would be much cheaper, but the killing of large animals is anathema to many people who speak loudly to politicians. Fertility control methods are improving with time and may be more acceptable socially, but costs are high and results in population reduction can be slow in coming Hobbs and Hinds Models are essential to sort out many of these issues, whether it be the projected costs of various options including doing nothing , the expected population trajectory, or the consequences for other species in the ecosystem.

The bottom line is that if overabundant wildlife populations are not reduced by some means, the result must be death by starvation or disease coupled with extensive damage to other species in these ecosystems. In the present political scene in North America opposition to culling overabundant wildlife is strong, coherent discussion is rarely possible, and Plan B problems are rarely heard. Most overabundant wildlife result from human actions in changing the vegetation, introducing new species, and reducing and fragmenting wildlife habitats.

Wishing the problems will go away without doing anything is not a feasible course of action. These kinds of problems in wildlife management are soluble in an objective manner with careful planning of research and management actions Hone et al. Ecologists have a moral duty to present all scientific sides of the management of overabundant species, and to bring evidence into the resulting social and political discussions of management issues. It is not an easy job. Bradford, J. Journal of Environmental Management 86 Caughley, G. Pages in P. Jewell S. Holt, and D. Hart, editors.

Academic Press, New York. ISBN: Davies, K. Ecosphere, 5, Hampton, J. An assessment of animal welfare for the culling of peri-urban kangaroos. Wildlife Research 43 Hobbs, R. Could current fertility control methods be effective for landscape-scale management of populations of wild horses Equus caballus in Australia? Wildlife Research 45 , Hone, J. Jewell, P. Liu, M. Pest Management Science, 68, Massei, G.

From Practice to Theory and Strategy

Wildlife Research, 41, Rutberg, A. Wildlife Research, 44, The World has many champions for the Olympics, economists have champions for free trade, physicists have champions for the Hadron Collider, astronomists for space telescopes, but who are the champions for the environment? Why do we have this puzzle that the health of the world we all live in is too often ignored when governments release their budgets?

There are several answers to this simple question. The complaint we then get is that environmental scientists too often suggest that studies are needed, and the results of these studies produce recommendations that will impede jobs and growth.

Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade

Environmental science not only does not produce more dollar bills but in fact diverts dollars from other more preferred activities that increase the GDP. Another important reason is that environmental problems are slow-moving and long-term, and our human evolutionary history shows that we are poor at dealing with such problems. We can recognize and adapt quickly to short-term problems like floods, epidemics, and famines but we cannot see the inexorable rise in sea levels of 3 mm per year. We have some of these champions already — James Hansen, David Suzuki, Tim Flannery, Paul Ehrlich, Naomi Klein — and they are doing an excellent job of producing scientific discussions on our major environmental problems, information that is unfortunately still largely ignored on budget day.

There is progress, but it is slow, and in particular young people are more aware of environmental issues than are those of the older generation. What can we do to change the existing dominant paradigm into a sustainable ecological paradigm? Begon argues that ecology is both a science and a crisis discipline, and his concern is that at the present time ecological ideas about our current crises are not taken seriously by the general public and policy leaders.

One way to change this, Begon argues, is to reduce our reliance on specific and often complicated evidence and convert to sound bites, slogans that capture the emotions of the public rather than their intellect. So, I suggest a challenge can be issued to ecology classes across the world to spend some time brainstorming on suitable slogans, short appealing phrases that encapsulate what ecologists understand about our current problems. Such capsules are not for all occasions, and we must maintain our commitment to evidence-based-ecology of course as Saul et al. That this kind of communication to the general public is not simple is well illustrated in the paper by Casado-Aranda et al.

So perhaps the bottom line is to stop older ecologists from talking so much, avoid talking about the past, and look in the future for slogans to encourage an ecological world view. Begon, M.

Ecology and politics

Winning public arguments as ecologists: Time for a New Doctrine? Casado-Aranda, L. Neural effects of environmental advertising: An fMRI analysis of voice age and temporal framing.


Journal of Environmental Management Saul, W. Shackleton, and F. A response to Begon. This is a short story of a very local event that illustrates far too well the improvements we have to seek in our political systems. They decided to proceed with the dam. Alas, that pretty well leaves out most things an ecologist would worry about. The economic analysis was sitting on the fence mostly because the question of the final cost of Site C is an unknown. Ansar et al. There has been little study for Site C of the effects of the proposed dam on fish in the river Cooper et al.

The most disturbing comment on this decision to proceed with Site C was made by the Premier of B. What we are lacking, and governments of both stripes have no time for, is an analysis of what the alternatives are in terms of renewable energy generation.

Alternative hypotheses should be useful in politics as they are in science. And they might even save money. Should we build more large dams? The actual costs of hydropower megaproject development. Energy Policy 69 , Cooper AR, et al. Assessment of dam effects on streams and fish assemblages of the conterminous USA. Science of The Total Environment , Methane dynamics downstream of a temperate run-of-the-river reservoir.

Limnology and Oceanography 61 , SS There is a great deal of discussion in the news about immigration into developed countries like Canada, USA, and Europe. The perspective on this important issue in the media is virtually entirely economic and social, occasionally moral, but in my experience almost never ecological. There are two main aspects of immigration that are particularly ecological — defining sustainable populations and protecting ecosystems from biodiversity loss.

These ecological concerns ought to be part of the discussion. Sustainability is one of the sciences current buzz words.

Ecology, Policy and Politics

Sustainability is critical in this century, but as scientists we must specify the details of how this or that public policy really does increase some metric of sustainability. There have been several attempts to define what a sustainable human population might be for any country or the whole Earth e. Ehrlich , Rees and Wackernagel and many papers on specific aspects of sustainability e.

Hilborn et al. The controversy arises in specifying the metric of sustainability. The result is that there is no agreement particularly among economists and politicians about what to target. For the most part we can all agree that exponential population growth cannot continue indefinitely. But when do we quit?

In developed countries the birth rate is about at equilibrium, and population growth is achieved in large part by immigration. Long term goals of achieving a defined sustainable population will always be trumped in the short term by changes in the goal posts — long term thinking seems almost impossible in our current political systems. One elephant in the room is that what we might define now as sustainable agriculture or sustainable fisheries will likely not be sustainable as climates change. Optimists predict that technological advances will greatly relieve the current limiting factors so all will be well as populations increase.

It would seem to be conservative to slow our population growth, and thus wait to see if this optimism is justified Ehrlich and Ehrlich Few developed countries seem to have set a sustainable population limit.

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It is nearly impossible to even suggest doing this, so this ecological topic disappears in the media. One possible way around this is to divert the discussion to protecting ecosystems from biodiversity loss. This approach to the overall problem might be an easier topic to sell to the public and to politicians because it avoids the direct message about population growth. But too often we run into a brick wall of economics even when we try this approach to sustainability because we need jobs for a growing population and the holy grail of continued economic growth is a firm government policy almost everywhere Cafaro , Martin et al.

At present this biodiversity approach seems to be the best chance of convincing the general public and politicians that action is needed on conservation issues in the broad sense. And by doing this we can hopefully obtain action on the population issue that is blocked so often by political and religious groups.

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A more purely scientific issue is the question why the concept of a sustainable population is thought to be off limits for a symposium at a scientific meeting? In recent years attempts to organize symposia on sustainable population concepts at scientific conferences have been denied by the organizers because the topic is not considered a scientific issue.

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  • Many ecologists would deny this because without a sustainable population, however that is defined, we may well face social collapse Ehrlich and Ehrlich What can we do as ecologists? I think shying away from these population issues is impossible because we need to have a good grounding in population arithmetic to understand the consequences of short-term policies. At least we should get the arithmetic right. Cafaro, P. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. DeLonge, M. Ehrlich, A. Building Sustainable Societies ed.

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      Ecology, Policy and Politics | Human Well-Being and the Natural World | Taylor & Francis Group

      Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 72, Hurlbert, S. Conservation Biology, 27, Martin, J. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, , Rees W. The shoe fits, but the footprint is larger than Earth. PLOS Biology 11 , e The media at present is full of comments about having a war that will stimulate the economy, at least in reconstruction. And this concern over war and the costs of war prompted me to investigate the relative costs of military funding and environmental funding.

      So here is a very coarse look at the relative positions of military funding and environmental funding in a few western countries. All the numbers are approximate and refer to and possibly budgets, and all are in billions of dollars. Military expenditures by countries are easiest to obtain, and here are a few for the most recent years I could find:.

      Environmental funding is much more difficult to decompose because different countries amalgamate different agencies into one Department. Consequently, comparisons are best made within one country rather than between countries. Here are a few details for particular agencies:. Clearly there are many problems with these simple comparisons. CSIRO includes divisions dealing with agriculture, climate change, and mining research. It is as though the biophysical environment does not exist as a problem in I am not clear if anyone worries about these simple facts.

      The general problem is that federal government budgets are made so complex and presented so poorly that it is nearly impossible to separate out different equivalent expenditures. Thus for example the military argues that it does scientific research with part of its funding, and universities fail to point out that some of their basic research focuses on military questions rather than questions that might benefit humanity Smart I hope that others might look into these expenditures in more detail, and that in the long run we might be more aware of where our tax dollars go.

      The simple suggestion that the last page of our tax file should give us a choice of what general areas we would like to support with our taxes would be a start. We should demand this be changed. Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. Volume 36 , Issue 2. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

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