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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Ethics in conservation

Baard, Patrik; Ahteensuu, Marko


During recent years the relevance of environmental ethics to nature conservation has been increasingly questioned. This doubt mainly takes two forms: (1) Conservation biology is regarded as solely a scientific endeavor, and therefore ethics is redundant; (2) It is acknowledged that values are part and parcel of conservation science, practice and policy, but environmental ethics is considered to have little positive contribution to make. We focus on the latter form and argue that it enables only suppressed normative premises omitted from critical scrutiny, and that relying on suppressed premises for making prescriptive conclusions is normatively unreasonable. Furthermore, even if the normative premises were well-founded, the stance has unwelcome implications. We show ways in which environmental ethics provides critical and structured manners of reasoning on normative premises. This invites more collaboration between nature conservation and environmental ethics in the future.


Environmental ethics; Conservation biology; Ethics; Moral philosophy; Nature conservation

Published in

Journal for Nature Conservation
2019, volume: 52, article number: 125737

Authors' information

Baard, Patrik
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Swedish Biodiversity Centre
Ahteensuu, Marko
Tampere University

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