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The critical importance of an ecological conscience

Lunney, D., Recher, H.F. and Hutchings, P. (2013) The critical importance of an ecological conscience. In: Lunney, D., Hutchings, P. and Recher, H.F., (eds.) Grumpy Scientists - The Ecological Conscience of a Nation. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, NSW, Australia, pp. 126-138.

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Abstract

In the plenary sessions of the Royal Zoological of NSW forum Science under siege: zoology under threat, Charles Krebs and Gordon Grigg expressed the view that scientists should speak up about the crisis in biodiversity. Indeed, they asserted that scientists should act as the ecological conscience of a nation. Their opinion became the organising theme of this book. The importance of this idea emerges clearly from the writings of Aldo Leopold: “If we grant the premise that an ecological conscience is possible and needed, then its first tenet must be this: economic provocation is no longer a satisfactory excuse for unsocial land-use (or, to use somewhat stronger words, for ecological atrocities).” Since Leopold’s initial publications in the late 1940s, his powerful ideas have affected thinkers in a variety of fields, including theology, agriculture, journalism, philosophy, and psychology. This paper examines how thinkers in these fields have engaged with the idea of an ecological conscience. It also examines media coverage of environmental issues in early 2013, and shows that although media stories are valuable in publicising issues which may otherwise receive little attention, these stories rarely convey the idea of an ecological conscience. Although the grumpy scientists in this book belong to a variety of disciplines, they share a belief in the critical importance of an ecological conscience. They contend that we need a shift in values away from human exceptionalism – the belief that humans are superior and in control of a passive world – and towards the acceptance of human responsibility for environmental degradation. The collective voice of the grumpy scientists adds valuable weight to the already compelling case for the urgency of developing an ecological conscience.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/25598
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