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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

    ESEP prepress abstract   -  DOI:

    From Science Only to Science for Conservation: A Personal Journey

    Bernd W├╝rsig*

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Long-term studies of whales, dolphins, and porpoises (the cetaceans) in nature abruptly began about 50 years ago, preceded by several decades of terrestrial animal studies, often of charismatic large mammals. Fifty years ago, intensive whaling was still occurring, and arguments against whaling largely centered around impending extinctions due to over-hunting, not the idea that cetaceans should not be killed due to natural or inherent goodness. In the 1970's several USA and other government agencies promulgated rules to help control pollution and other insults to nature, often effective in short term but not in stopping an overall decline in health of nature. While there appeared a general societal awakening towards greater appreciation of nature and intrinsic animal rights, researchers largely stayed focused on their research, with little attention to using knowledge to increase ecosystem and animal health. Attitudes of direct scientific involvement in calling for environmental action have changed, as it is becoming increasingly (but not universally) appreciated that researchers who know the problems are well-suited to alert governments, industry, and society to them, and loudly call for action. I have no good answers how to accomplish large-scale rapid reversals of environmental declines. One laudable action is to be an active vocal part of appropriate web-based conservation advocacy groups. Involving the young for a groundswell of support is likely most effective in generating a new world view of so much respect for nature that we radically alter our present ways of subjugating and diminishing it in the name of supposed human progress. Above all, we scientists must no longer dither with opinions on environmental problems and urgent needs for action; we must proclaim them intelligently, forcefully, and as broadly as possible.