Can Ecosystem Services Make Conservation Normal and Commonplace?

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Conservation for the Anthropocene Ocean


Academic Press

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Without widespread and immediate changes in human values and activities, massive tracts of natural habitat will be degraded to the detriment of those ecosystems, ecosystem services, and many threatened taxa—in the oceans and elsewhere. Despite this, the conservation movement has yet to devote much attention to the intentional project of widespread norm change. By one logic, the ecosystem services concept offers a means of integrating meaningful conservation into decision making by diverse government and corporate actors, potentially normalizing conservation. But normalizing conservation would require not only the uptake of ecosystem-services concepts but also widespread changes in conservation practice and stewardship values—on a scale that far exceeds what we have witnessed to date. The concept of ecosystem services has potential for assisting such a societal transformation because it effectively puts a human face on environmental change, thereby enabling the extension of responsibility and morality into environmental arenas at all scales. Furthermore, cultural ecosystem services merit particular attention because of their contribution to the formation of attachments to particular places and to identities rooted in nature and conservation, which presents an opportunity to consolidate and shape deep motivations for lasting conservation. Realizing these two opportunities in a way that is both appropriate and effective, however, will require several important innovations and new institutions, which we propose here. One key step is to enlist a broad base of consumers and corporations in the funding of actions to mitigate the environmental impacts associated with their participation in global supply chains, via funding vehicles that are conspicuous, easy, enjoyable, and not too expensive. We describe a new initiative called CoSphere (a Community of Small-Planet Heroes, Ecologically Regenerating Economies) that strives to create such structures. With consolidated effort and explicit attention, conservation can become normalized to the benefit of current people, future generations, and life on Earth.

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