Conservationsits should give up

Patrick Foley patfoley at
Sun Jul 13 23:04:56 EDT 2003

Paul and all,

About 8 years ago, I heard a talk by the conservation biologist Michael 
Soule. Besides helping found the Society for Conservation Biology, he is 
the author and editor of several seminal books on the subject. He is 
also a Zen Buddhist and gave up a tenured job at UC San Diego to pursue 
his spiritual interests. He later got a new job at UC Santa Cruz.

This is how I remember his talk, but the ideas are surely conflated with 
my thoughts right after his talk, and I have never his ideas in print.

Soule said, that perhaps conservation biologists should give up. It 
wasn't working. It made other people think something good was actually 
happening, giving them false security. And it let the enemies of the 
conservation movement off the hook. They can presently spend all their 
time attacking conservationists. Let them have to deal with the problem 

Patrick Foley
patfoley at

Patrick Foley wrote:

> Paul,
> College professors are surely guilty of overconsumption and poor 
> energy planning (like most people), but it doesn't help the world much 
> if such a small population suddenly reforms itself. We need a 
> concerted effort which requires, among other unpopular things, higher 
> energy prices, more solar power, better home designs and a commitment 
> by everybody to live in reality not fantasy.
> However it is my experience that many professors drive the most energy 
> effective cars in their class, or even bicycle (I live in Davis, CA). 
> Many have no children and few have more than 3. Many live in small 
> homes, or what is more important , energy efficicient homes. Many 
> Davis homes have 8 foot ceilings and the house codes require energy 
> efficient windows etc. The house I own is 1400 sq feet but what 
> matters more is its east west layout and the arrangement of trees and 
> such. We do not air condition. I drive a 39 mile per gallon Saturn to 
> work, but a 20 mpg Dodge truck to the field. That's the smallest 
> vehicle that can do the job and hold my 6'8'' body.
> My biggest failure to conserve energy in the past few years is 
> probably travel, especially by air and wandering around the western 
> United States looking at flowers, bees and leps. This is a guilty 
> pleasure, and I am willing to pay for it. I am even willing to pay the 
> external price (including the effects on global warming) if I can get 
> everyone to do the same. So I am like you. I won't become a better 
> world citizen until I can get some guarantee that others will too. But 
> I will vote for higher energy taxes, family planning, international 
> cooperation and environmental protection. Will you?
> The concept of good citizenship, is not that we are called to be 
> saints, but that we are called to share the problems and the 
> solutions. We need to build a society that encourages us to be good 
> environmentalists, rather than discourages it. Are you with us?
> Patrick Foley
> patfoley at
> Paul Cherubini wrote:
>>Pat Foley wrote:
>>>I am utterly convinced that continuing to pump large amounts of 
>>>greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is foolishly dangerous. As a 
>>>citizen and father, I feel like an irresponsible failure for letting 
>>>such stupid things happen. How about you?
>>Pat, I don't see much evidence that college professors and the leaders
>>of major environmental groups are seriously worried about global 
>>warming. If they were, they'd be willing to make serious lifestyle changes
>>to reduce greenhouse gas production. Serious changes like adopting
>>children instead of creating them, driving smaller vehicles and buying
>>smaller homes.  Instead, I see college professors have 
>>successfully lobbied for salary increases that have outpaced the Consumer
>>Price Index by an increasingly wider margin each year for the past two 
>>decades  Professors are 
>>using part of this extra money to buy larger, heavier, less fuel efficient
>>vehicles and larger, more resource consumptive homes in luxuriously
>>landscaped subdivisions which consume large amounts of open space. 
>>So Pat I'm not going to get too excited about greenhouse gas production
>>until I start seeing biological science professors worried enough
>>about it to start driving 4 cylinder two wheel drive compact cars, 
>>compact station wagons and mini-trucks like they used to drive back in
>>the 1970's.  And start living in modest 1200-1400 square foot homes 
>>like they used to when they couldn't afford anything bigger.   Will college 
>>professors and highly paid environmentalists ever likely make these 
>>lifestyle changes? Well one clue is that none of the major environmental 
>>organizations are encouringing the public to stop having children, buying 
>>SUV's, Vans or at least stop buying 6 and 8 cylinder models or four wheel
>>drive / all wheel drive models or to stop buying large homes to help combat 
>>global warming.  For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists website 
>>merely recommends: 
>>"When you buy your next car, look for the one with the best fuel
>> economy in its class."   "If you own more than one vehicle, use the less 
>>fuel-efficient one only when you can fill it with passengers 

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