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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 20:1-13 (2020)  -  DOI:

Marine biology on a violated planet: from science to conscience

Giovanni Bearzi*

Dolphin Biology and Conservation, via Cellina 5, 33084 Cordenons, Italy OceanCare, Gerbestrasse 6, 8820 Wädenswil, Switzerland Institute of Marine Sciences, National Research Council (ISMAR-CNR), Castello 2737/F, 30122 Venice, Italy
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Humanity’s self-ordained mandate to subdue and dominate nature is part of the cognitive foundation of the modern world—a perspective that remains deeply ingrained in science and technology. Marine biology has not been immune to this anthropocentric bias. But this needs to change, and the gaps between basic scientific disciplines and the global conservation imperatives of our time need to be bridged. In the face of a looming ecological and climate crisis, marine biologists must upgrade their values and professional standards and help foster the radical transformation needed to avert a climate and ecological breakdown. To prevent some of the damage, they must cross the imaginary line that separates science from science-based activism and consciously pursue the health and durability of human and natural communities. To this end, they can (1) develop compelling narratives that engage human society, with emphasis on care for the wild living world; (2) move beyond marine conservation on paper and avoid self-serving complaisance; (3) advocate constructive changes in market and human behaviour, not only by documenting damage but also by clarifying how the extraction, production and consumption system can be steered away from practices that harm nature; (4) push for systemic change in politics through individual and collective efforts, supporting environmental activism and those who demand biosphere-saving policies; and (5) endorse a more ecocentric and holistic world vision, relinquishing contempt for spiritual wisdom and liaising with (or at least not dismissing) spiritual traditions that encourage equality, self-restraint and environmental sustainability.

KEY WORDS: Marine biology · Marine conservation · Environmental crisis · Climate change · Biodiversity conservation · Overexploitation · Sustainability · Outreach · Activism

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Cite this article as: Bearzi G (2020) Marine biology on a violated planet: from science to conscience. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 20:1-13.

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