Kareiva: Scientist, Conservationist, & Pragmatist.

Here is some interesting weekend reading for you.  Peter Kareiva, chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy, wrote an essay questioning the strategies of environmentalists and conservationists. He argued that their movement is failing – both in its goal to protect ecosystems and helping people to recognize their dependence on those ecosystems. He is also challenging the narrative of nature as always being fragile – when it can often be resilient.
Now there is a great feature-length article at E&E news that brings together Kareiva, his critics, and even such people as Stewart Brand who have made similar realizations – that while humans are having a major impact on this planet, we are also part of the solution. What is really refreshing is his approach of using science to determine what the reality is, and a pragmatic approach to action. Here is an excerpt:

With the backing of McCormick and Mark Tercek, the Nature Conservancy’s current CEO and a former Goldman Sachs executive, Kareiva and his peers have pushed out conservation in multiple ways. For the conservancy, that means promoting sustainable farming, even if that may include biotech crops; setting up protected areas internationally that allow active use by locals; getting corporations to adopt more sustainable practices; or even working in the urban jungle of cities.
The Nature Conservancy is no longer in the business of “saving the last great places on Earth.” Its new slogan? “Protecting nature. Preserving life.” It’s a mind-boggling and welcome shift, said Brand, the environmentalist and author.
“The idea that the world’s largest and most successful and most trusted environmental organization would move its mission from protecting wild lands from people to protecting wild lands for people,” he said, pausing for a moment. “Every word and concept in there is different, except ‘protecting.'”

Have a read!


  1. Keith Kloor collected a bunch of the articles around Kareiva and the pushback: The Green Insurgents.
    He also links to an essay that was supposedly a response to the Kareiva piece–but I didn’t think it addressed hardly any of the substantive points of Kaveira’s critiques of the stuck-in-the-past and ineffective (and sometimes simply lying) groups.

  2. Thanks for this link, Karl. I’m smiling reading this and thinking of all my past “comrades” (from too many years ago to mention) who were all about “fighting the establishment”. Now, I, admittedly amused, think of them dogmatically defending an establishment that they built….

  3. Thanks Karl — really, really interesting and it is easy to foresee the path by which this thinking could have a huge, positive policy impact in DC. It would be interesting to hear Kareiva’s thoughts about what the research agenda of the future for the plant breeding community should be, in light of his thinking. Or maybe one of his students/post-docs could weigh in. Is this something Biofortified could solicit and post here?

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