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Addressing Climate Change Will Not “Save the Planet”

Conservation Biology finds itself in a terrifying place today, witness to mass extinction, helpless to stop the march of industrial Homo sapiens, the pillage of habitat, the loss of wildlands, and the impoverishment of ecosystems. Many of its leading figures are in despair. “I’m 40 years into conservation biology and I can tell you we are losing badly, getting our asses kicked,” Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Barack Obama, told me recently. “There are almost no reasons to be optimistic.”

This might explain the discipline’s desperate hitching of its wagon to the climate movement. Climate, after all, is the environmental cause du jour, eclipsing all other sustainability concerns, increasingly attractive as a rallying cry for a public that has canonized it as one of the major political, social, and economic issues of our time.