Nature above people: Rolston and "fortress" conservation in the south

Ethics and the Environment 11 (1):71-96 (2006)
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: Holmes Rolston III has argued that in some situations where the needs of starving people come into conflict with the protection of natural values, "we" ought to prioritize the latter. Focusing on the threat to pristine ecosystems and endangered species posed by overpopulation in developing countries, Rolston advocates the exclusion of human settlement and activity from the most fragile and valuable wild areas—a strategy sometimes termed "fortress conservation." This approach suffers from at least three serious faults. First, fortress conservation is regarded as an illegitimate imposition by many of the local people on whose cooperation the success of conservation initiatives depends, often leading to failure in terms of conservation objectives. Second, the assumption that conservation and the satisfaction of basic human needs are largely incompatible ignores evidence of widespread environmentally sustainable patterns of resource use. Finally, Rolston's appeal to "us," referring variously to concerned North Americans and to humanity as a whole, implicitly universalizes the preservationist value system of a Northern minority while excluding the values and voices of the people directly affected by the proposed conservation measures



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