“The world we want is considerably different from the one we are creating.” (Houghton, 1995)

“Our findings show one compelling reason why this [current development practices not providing human benefits as they should] is the case: our relentless conversion and degradation of remaining natural habitats is eroding overall human welfare for short-term private gain.” (Balmford, et al., 2002).

What should be the goal of conservation in the 21st century? One can think of many, but perhaps the most critical are to maintain vital ecosystem “services” (ecological processes which support life on earth), to preserve a considerable degree of genetic diversity, both of variety of species and within species, and to use the resources of nature sustainably. We must plan our conservation efforts with the following points in mind and so choose the areas for maximum conservation effort with care: (i) the less damage, the greater the number of species the forest can sustain (ii) the more species, the greater the value of the forest for conservation purposes (iii) the larger the original area of the forest, the greater the number of species (iv) the more diverse the topography and soil, the greater the number of species (v) each different topographical area will probably contain endemic species (vi) forests with valuable species (forest products) need protection (vii) in conserving species, a viable population of each species is necessary (viii) a sufficient area for each species is essential (ix) all types of forest must be preserved (lowland, montane, peatswamp, dry, floods, etc.) (Jacobs, 1988).

Tropical rainforests, undisturbed, contain as much diversity as they can under present global conditions. We must remember that any change, therefore, will lead to impoverishment of diversity. All of the above criteria must be accompanied, first of all, by a reduction in human population growth rates, and the sustainable use of our global “life-support systems” – food, water, air, energy, “sink” capacities. Our emphases always have been on human life, but without valuing the nonhuman aspects of our environment – including the other living species – it will be impossible to make improvements in, or, indeed, keep stable, the “human condition.” We must realize that our current development patterns are impossible to sustain and that our highly resilient life-support systems will eventually reach their limits (and some may already have done so). An improvement in human lives and a reduction in poverty must come from the redistribution of goods and services, qualitative rather than quantitative development, population stabilization, and community action. As Goodland (1995) stated, “The growth debate emphasizes the scale of the growing economic subsystem relative to the finite ecosystem.” We must realize that the earth’s ecosystems are, indeed, finite.

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