Sunday, 28 November 2010

Biodiversity and Environmental Philosophy, An Introduction

Biodiversity and Environmental Philosophy, An Introduction (2005)
by Sahotra Sarkar, Cambridge University Press, 258 pp including Index  (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology)

In this book, Sarkar presents a mostly interesting and analytical way of approaching biodiversity conservation. It is technical though and he often uses algebraic formulas to support his philosophical debate. He emphasizes “that biodiversity conservation is as much a socio-political issue as a scientific one.” But his book seems more geared for the scientist.

As mentioned in my Positive Visions for Biodiversity article, Sarkar discusses the conundrum of whether capturing certain human values can be thought of in demand terms. I can now confirm that he defends the position that biodiversity is similar to human freedom, or love, in the sense that it is far too important to be treated in the marketplace, or in other words, given intrinsic value. On the other hand, he proposes an anthropocentric position based on the concept of transformative value which incorporates the potential experiences species provide for us and their scientific interest.

The most important consideration for incorporation into conservation biology of the future, Sarkar claims, is uncertainty quantitatively. I have to admit that this makes no sense to me, anymore than his algebraic formulas. Also, I think that his transformative valuation is as unsatisfactory as an intrinsic valuation in the market place. But, I would hasten to add, that if one is involved in making the determination of where to site reserves for biological conservation, Sarkar gives a logical mode for tackling this problem.  He also admirably sets the framework for further intellectual development in this area.