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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Conservation or Preservation

This is a blog I have been meaning to write for a long time.  We often hear people say they believe in conservation when they really believe in preservation.  When I was educated on the subject, conservation was defined as the wise use of our natural resources. Preservation on the other hand was viewed as a more radical effort to save a resource by not using it.  Merriman-Webster online adds to the confusion with this definition "a careful preservation and protection of something; especially : planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect"  that includes preservation. 

When we practice soil conservation, most of the time it means that we are using farming methods that do not degrade the soil resource.  When we conserve energy resources, it means we do what we can to keep energy use to a minimum.  In our homes, we use insulation, weather stripping, good windows, appropriate thermostat settings, and etc. so that our energy resources will last longer.  When we conserve forest resources, we replace trees that we use.  We might also practice things like thinning and pruning to improve forest production.  

When we decide we should not allow old growth timber to be cut, then we are practicing preservation.  We are not using the forest for consumptive use.  When we set aside wildlife preserves, we are practicing preservation.  When we change land use from cropland to permanent vegetative cover, then we are technically preserving the soil.

Both methods of resource management are appropriate under certain conditions.  I agree that we need to preserve something of our natural history for both aesthetic reasons and because we may find future utility in  some part of the ecosystem we choose to preserve,  Energy Conservation and Soil Conservation have immediate economic benefits.  Preservation may have an associated cost.  Sometimes preservationist and conservationist find common ground to work together.  At other times someone may consider himself a conservationist when he is making wise use of a resource, but a preservationist may think that conservation measures are not enough. 

Whatever side we are on, some flexibility in philosophies is in order in so that we can meet common goals. 

1 comment:

Sam said...

Thanks for writing this. I will share it with my students.