In this paper we consider how conservation has arisen as a key aspect of the reaction to human-initiated degradation and disappearance of ecosystems, wild lands. and wildlife. Concern over species extinction is given an historical perspective which shows the way in which pressure on wild and natural aspects of global ecology have changed in recent centuries. The role of conservation in the struggle to protect the environment is then analysed using underlying ethical arguments behind the economic, ecological and rights based justifications given for conservation. The moral considerability of species and individuals is reviewed and different positions contrasted, most importantly utilitarianism versus rights. A central argument with primary influence over economics is the utilitarian justification for action and this is explored with reflection upon the use of monetary valuation. Rights are then explored and the use of consequentialism in adjudicating different rights claims introduced. Human preferences can be seen as practically powerful in justifying conservation policy decisions. even when an animal-centred ethic has been adopted. Yet ecological and non-consequentialist expressions of concern characterise the entire problem in fundamentally different ways, e.g. biodiversity and ecosystems maintenance versus marginal species loss, designation of wilderness areas versus management of parklands. Leaving the wild in wilderness and the natural in Nature cannot then be reduced to preference utilitarianism as in the economic calculus.
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