Harmony in Conservation

Haydn Washington*, Erik Gomez-Baggethun, John J. Piccolo, Helen Kopnina, Heather Alberro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Many authors have noted the role that anthropocentrism has played in creating humanity’s dysfunctional relationship with the natural world. As human hubris (excessive pride or self-confidence) is an ailment that contributes to the anthropogenic sixth mass extinction of Earth’s biodiversity, we argue instead for ‘harmony with nature’. In recent decades, even the conservation discourse has become increasingly anthropocentric. Indeed, justification for nature conservation has in part shifted from nature’s intrinsic value to ‘ecosystem services’ for the benefit of people. Here we call for a transformation to a more harmonious human-nature relationship that is grounded in mutual respect and principled responsibility, instead of utilitarianism and enlightened self-interest. Far from what Tennyson called ‘red in tooth and claw’, we argue nature is a mixture of cooperation as well as competition. We argue that the UN’s ‘Harmony with Nature’ program is an innovative and refreshing path for change. If we are to achieve harmony with nature, modern industrial society will need to abandon its anthropocentric ‘human supremacy’ mindset and adopt an ecocentric worldview and ecological ethics. We conclude it is thus both appropriate (and essential) for conservationists to champion harmony with nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-693
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


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