Understanding conservationists’ perspectives on the new conservation debate

George Holmes, Chris Sandbrook, Janet Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Recently, there has been a vibrant debate about the future direction of biodiversity conservation, particularly centred on the merits of a so-called “New Conservation”. Proponents of the New Conservation advocate a series of positions on key conservation ideas, such as the importance of human-dominated landscapes and conservation's engagement with capitalism. These have been fiercely contested in a debate dominated by a few high profile individuals, and so far there has been no empirical exploration of what perspectives exist on these issues amongst a wider community of conservationists. In this paper, we use Q methodology to provide an empirical examination of perspectives held by attendees at the 2015 International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB). Although our findings identify consensus on several key issues, three distinct positions emerged. Factor 1 is in favour of conservation to benefit people but opposes links with capitalism and corporations, Factor 2 favours biocentric approaches but with less emphasis on protecting wilderness than prominent opponents of New Conservation, and Factor 3 has strong links to the published New Conservation perspective but places less emphasis on increasing human wellbeing as a goal of conservation. Our results reveal important differences between the New Conservation debate in the literature and views held within a wider, but still limited, conservation community, and demonstrate the existence of at least one viewpoint (Factor 1) that is almost absent from the published debate. We hope that the fuller understanding this paper presents of the variety of views that exist, but have not yet been heard, will improve the quality and tone of debates on the New Conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-363
JournalConservation biology
Issue number2
Early online date25 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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