The Fall of the Wild

Extinction, De-Extinction, and the Ethics of Conservation

Ben A. Minteer

Columbia University Press

The Fall of the Wild

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Pub Date: December 2018

ISBN: 9780231177788

192 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $28.00£22.00

Pub Date: December 2018

ISBN: 9780231548885

192 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $27.99£22.00

The Fall of the Wild

Extinction, De-Extinction, and the Ethics of Conservation

Ben A. Minteer

Columbia University Press

The passenger pigeon, the great auk, the Tasmanian tiger—the memory of these vanished species haunts the fight against extinction. Seeking to save other creatures from their fate in an age of accelerating biodiversity loss, wildlife advocates have become captivated by a narrative of heroic conservation efforts. A range of technological and policy strategies, from the traditional, such as regulations and refuges, to the novel—the scientific wizardry of genetic engineering and synthetic biology—seemingly promise solutions to the extinction crisis.

In The Fall of the Wild, Ben A. Minteer calls for reflection on the ethical dilemmas of species loss and recovery in an increasingly human-driven world. He asks an unsettling but necessary question: Might our well-meaning efforts to save and restore wildlife pose a threat to the ideal of preserving a world that isn’t completely under the human thumb? Minteer probes the tension between our impulse to do whatever it takes and the risk of pursuing strategies that undermine our broader commitment to the preservation of wildness. From collecting wildlife specimens for museums and the wilderness aspirations of zoos to visions of “assisted colonization” of new habitats and high-tech attempts to revive long-extinct species, he explores the scientific and ethical concerns vexing conservation today. The Fall of the Wild is a nuanced treatment of the deeper moral issues underpinning the quest to save species on the brink of extinction and an accessible intervention in debates over the principles and practice of nature conservation.
Wise and subtle book on the ethics of modern wildlife conservation. Jennie Erin Smith, The Wall Street Journal
What to do—and not to do—about the biodiversity crisis that we ourselves are engineering? In The Fall of the Wild, Ben Minteer takes us through the options. His assessment of the situation is balanced, clear-sighted, and humane. Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
In a kind of writing that has become rare today because of its mix of honesty, eloquence and compassion, Ben Minteer has done us all a favor by giving us a clear-headed, full-hearted perspective on where the conservation movement can and should move in the future. In doing so, he joins the ranks of other great thinkers who changed the course of conservation history during their all-too-brief sojourns into Arizona's deserts and mountains, from Aldo Leopold and Joseph Wood Krutch to Ed Abbey and Paul Martin. Minteer bravely takes on the many facile assumptions of conservation's technofixologists and misanthropes alike to offer us a humbler and hopefully more effective way to save and to savor the presence of the remaining living riches of the "natural" world. Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Lands and Communities
The central ethical question addressed by Minteer is not only how far we might go to prevent biological extinction but also how far should we go. He comes to this conundrum as a distinguished environmental philosopher with a broad and deep record of thoughtful scholarship, as well as the heart of someone who obviously cares about the future of nature. And most importantly, at a time when answering the question is ever more urgent, he plots a carefully explicated, cautiously hopeful course forward. Harry W. Greene, author of Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art
In this pithy set of essays Minteer tackles some of the thorniest questions we face as caring citizens and dwellers on the Earth. As human environmental effects accelerate and our technological capacities expand, we face complex decisions involving where and when and how to intervene in ecosystems in the name of conservation. With clarity and circumspection Minteer examines our assumptions about wildness, our human capacity to live with it (or without it), and the far-reaching ethical implications of our choices. Curt Meine, author of Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work
1. Our Vanishing (and Reappearing) Wildlife
2. A Bird in the Hand
3. The Call of the Quasi Wild
4. Elephants Somewhere
5. Promethean Dreams
6. Heaven and Earth
Acknowledgments
Notes
Further Reading
Index

About the Author

Ben A. Minteer holds the Arizona Zoological Society Endowed Chair at Arizona State University, where he is a professor of environmental ethics and conservation in the School of Life Sciences. He has authored or edited many books, including The Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought in America (2006) and The Ark and Beyond: The Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation (2018).