Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 25 September 2018

Environmental Conflict

Abstract and Keywords

A philosopher might presume that principles of justice somehow are more fundamental than principles of conflict resolution. But moral philosophy done well is neither as autonomous as that, nor as naïve. Moral philosophy done well tracks truth about the human condition, which means it tracks truth about what it actually takes in the real world for people to live in peace. Accordingly, the relationship between justice and conflict resolution is an evolving process of mutual specification, anchored to facts about what helps people get along and make progress. If we want to understand what people have reason to expect from each other and to regard as their due, we would do well to start by learning how people avoid and resolve conflict.

Keywords: justice, conflict, values, markets, conservation, preservationism, biocentrism, anthropocentrism, ecosystem, interests

The fundamental question with which moral philosophy begins is the question of how to live. It is obvious how discussion of justice—the question of how to live in a community—could and should connect, but also painfully obvious that much of our theorizing about justice no longer does connect. In scholarly circles, talk of justice can have an abstract quality, strangely devoid of implications for what individuals should do. One hears talk of principles of distribution and of classes to which primary goods are to be distributed. To recover a measure of relevance to the fundamental question, theorizing about principles of justice would have to orient itself around questions about which principles have a history of being demonstrably the organizing principles of flourishing communities.

Habitable principles—principles that real people can live with—are first of all principles by which we avoid and resolve conflict. A philosopher might presume that principles of justice somehow are more fundamental than principles of conflict resolution. But moral philosophy done well is neither as autonomous as that, nor as naïve. Moral philosophy done well tracks truth about the human condition, which means it tracks truth about what it actually takes in the real world for people to live in peace. Therefore, the relationship between justice and conflict resolution is not one-way. It is instead an evolving process of mutual specification, anchored to facts about what helps people get along and make progress. If we want to understand what people have reason to expect from each other and what they have reason to regard as their due, we would do well to start by learning how people avoid and resolve conflict and thereby build lives such that people can know that their neighbors are better off with them than without.

This essay describes three varieties of environmental conflict, with a particular focus on a contrast between conflict of values and conflict of priorities.1 I reflect on how people cope with these kinds of environmental conflict and on how our ways of coping implicitly distinguish environmental conflict resolution from environmental justice. I close by noting ways in which economic analysis can help us understand environmental conflict and what might help us resolve it. While reducing all values to economic values is uncalled for, the fact remains that economies exhibit a certain logic. To ignore the logic of human economy is to ignore the logic of human ecology and thus to ignore the logic of ecologies where humans are a keystone species. It would be a shame to be led by environmental values to such a damaging isolation from ecological reality.

(p. 518) 1 Varieties of Environmental Conflict

1.1 Conflicting Use

The simplest kind of conflict occurs when people get in each other’s way. Call this conflict in use. Conflict in use comprises literal and figurative traffic jams. In particular, when the uses to which different parties would put common resources or common spaces leads to congestion, the effect is that people aiming to use said resources find themselves in each other’s way.2 Societies cope with conflicting use by developing institutions that in effect manage traffic. The tools of literal traffic management—stop lights, speed limits, and such—are primary examples of such institutions. At any given moment, a snapshot of a framework of green and red lights looks like a zero-sum game—facilitating the movement of some at the expense of others. But the static perspective is a fool’s perspective, because over time the game reveals itself to be good for everyone. So long as the system is responding well to the volume of traffic, all (including even pedestrians) reach their destinations safer, faster, and more predictably.

Among the primary tools of traffic management considered more figuratively, a system of property establishes common and known expectations establishing rights of way, whereas people’s preferences regarding the use of a given resource put them on course for potential collision.3 Allocating rights to post and enforce a rule of “no trespassing” or “no hunting” is a way of managing access to and thus traffic on a given parcel of land.

1.2 Conflicting Values

Settling on a system of property is one way of settling environmental conflicts. It does not always work. Why not? For one thing, not all conflicts concern who has the right of way. Some conflicts concern whether anyone should have the right of way. Some conflicts are about what rightly can be treated as property in the first place. This second kind of conflict is a conflict of values.

What if Kenya’s Masai claim a right to treat lions and elephants as pieces of property? Doing so gives the Masai an incentive to protect lions and elephants from poachers, which has to count for something. Granting a property right creates both latitude and motive to erect a fence and a “no trespassing” sign, thereby protecting an owner’s right to what lies inside. However, critics of this way of protecting wildlife sometimes say, in effect, that to establish property rights in elephants is to commodify them. It is degrading, just another way of destroying them. At very least it destroys what these charismatic animals stand for in the hearts of people who cherish a vision of nature wild and free.

Similar issues arise regarding the conservation of sub-Saharan rhinos. A portion of a rhino horn can be removed without hurting the animal. The removable portion is today worth a quarter of a million dollars.4 There are perhaps 20,000 rhinos left in the African wild, not nearly enough to meet exploding Asian demand. Market forces under current Prohibition-style laws encourage organized crime. Federal helicopter gunships and drones accompany wild rhinos, but soldiers manning the helicopters are themselves, often enough, (p. 519) in the employ of organized crime, and their actual function is to warn poachers when uncorrupted rangers are near.

One alternative is to allow the ranching of captive-bred rhinos. Captive rhinos would be no more in danger of extinction than any other form of cattle. In that sense, the problem would be solved. The downside is that, although captive rhinos would survive, they would after all be surviving as a form of cattle.5

To some people, saving rhinos in this way is abhorrent. In their eyes, it would be better for rhinos to go extinct. Consider a somewhat related view of Cynthia Moss’s. Moss writes about her life among elephants, sharing their hopes and dreams even while acknowledging what makes them wild and alien. She says she would prefer elephants going extinct to seeing them murdered as a means of managing herd size in places where elephant overpopulation is devastating the landscape and driving other animals, especially rhinos, to extinction (Moss, 1988: 226). Moss may not feel the same way about raising captive-bred rhinos in order to meet the demand for rhino horn in a way that prevents rhinos from going extinct, but her intransigent opposition both to hunting and to culling is easy to understand.

There are places where “canned” lions, raised in captivity, are released into game parks on demand, as orders for trophy lions are placed by customers willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be made to feel like a lion hunter. Immediately before the hunt begins, a lion is released into an unfamiliar and disorienting habitat where it is a reliably easy kill.6 Needless to say, some people oppose this practice. The conflict that results, however, is not a conflict in use. There is no dispute about who owns “canned” animals. Farms indisputably are licensing the hunting of their own livestock, not someone else’s. This quarrel is not over who has the right of way—how to manage traffic in these lions—but whether traffic in trophy lions should exist at all.

Clearly, then, we have here a kind of conflict not resolved or even acknowledged merely by settling who owns the resource. The dispute concerns whether anyone has any right to treat rhinos, lions, or elephants as resources at all rather than as beings with independent moral standing.7

Anthropocentric (i.e., human-centered) orientations toward nature are contrasted with biocentric (i.e., nature-centered) orientations. Where a conservationist’s concern is anthropocentric (saying nature should be used wisely), a preservationist’s concern is biocentric (saying nature’s moral standing does not depend on its being of use to humans.) To preservationists, there are species and ecosystems that should be free from human management (Norton, 1991: 12–13).8 This kind of clash is an important example of the second variety of conflict: conflicting values.

1.3 Conflicting Priorities

A final category of conflict is a matter of conflicting priorities. What distinguishes conflict of priorities from conflict of values? The crucial point: goals can come into conflict even when values are relevantly similar. For example, a group might pledge allegiance to preservationism’s “no use at all” policies. Will local people be eager to join this fight on the side of the international conservation lobby? Perhaps. Yet all too often local people denounce international lobbyists as hypocrites, ignorant meddlers, or outright criminals. Why? Is it because local farmers, their local experience notwithstanding, are too ignorant and too uneducated to understand what they should care about? Sometimes, at least, farmers decline to participate in the cause of cosmopolitan environmentalism because they cannot afford it.

(p. 520) The issue, conceptually and practically, is that priorities can conflict even when values do not. For example, suppose our children matter even more to us than elephants do but elephants matter far more to us than do ivory chess sets. Could agreeing on this ranking lead to conflict? Absolutely. Conflicts arise when Americans reject hunting elephants, since ivory chess sets are not worth enough to justify killing elephants, while Africans accept elephant hunting, since feeding their children is worth enough to justify killing elephants. Americans and Africans differ, but not because they embrace different values. Indeed, they embrace the same values but pay different prices for what they value. To the American, the price of no elephant hunting is no ivory chess sets; to the African, the price of no elephant hunting is no children.

When getting enough to eat is a daily challenge for subsistence farmers, they can have priorities unlike ours. Underlying the differing priorities is a fact about values—not that our values are so different but that our values are so similar. Some conflicts have roots not in differing values so much as in differences in what we can afford under differing circumstances.

Consider the implications. Africa’s subsistence farmers need to put land to productive use. Unless coexisting with elephants is a way of putting land to productive use (that is, unless they can sell photo safaris, ivory, or hunting licenses), they will need some other way of putting their land to productive use: that is, cattle or crops. If the idea of rural Africans exploiting elephants seems obviously wrong, then consider that, for them, their next best option involves converting elephant habitat into farmland.

Elephants today live on land that they share with people. Whether they can survive is a question of whether people can afford to share (Kreuter et al., 2010: 161).9 The difference between conflicts like this and conflicting values is philosophically interesting and practically momentous.

2 Ideals and Compromise

Philosophers, one could argue, earn a living by envisioning a more perfect world. But although there may be some point in an environmental ethic that is mainly an exercise in envisioning ideals, environmental conflict resolution is an exercise in the art of compromise. Successful conflict mediation typically involves negotiating win-win solutions. Does that presuppose that both parties would win in a morally ideal world? Not at all. We need to be able to coexist with all of our neighbors, not only the ideal ones. Conflicting priorities, however, can be a problem even among ideal neighbors who embrace each other’s values and thus have no grounds for treating such conflicts as clashes between good and evil. When we hear about waves of settlers burning the Amazon and wonder whether we can stop it, we may have a conflict of values with two-dimensional villains borrowed from a low-budget movie: condominium developers wanting to burn forests for no apparent reason other than to get the thrill that vandals get from destroying things. More realistically, we might be looking instead at priorities that conflict with farmers wanting to feed their children. We might find their values unobjectionable. We might well share their values. It may even be the rule rather than the exception that there is no point in trying to win by making our imagined enemies lose.

Further, there are times for attending not only to our values but to other people’s too, even if we do not share their values and indeed find them alien. Why? Because other people’s values are integral parts of ecosystems about which we claim to care. We do not decide how (p. 521) other people will act any more than we decide how elephants or viruses will act. People decide for themselves. If we aim to respond to them in an environmentally sound way, then our question should be, under what conditions do people with their values and their priorities act in environmentally sound ways?

To mediators, the first principle of conflict resolution is to focus on interests, not positions (Fisher and Ury, 1991). (Positions are conceptions of how things ought to be. Positions need not have anything to do with here and now. To stand on the rightness of one’s vision is to take a position. An interest by contrast is grounded in an evaluation of where we are, where such evaluation naturally requires updating along with changing circumstances, or changing information about those circumstances. There is an interest where something is at stake—where things can go better or worse starting from here.) Successful mediation avoids letting negotiation turn into a contest of wills where the point is to make the other side lose. It leads people to focus on the actual problem, that is, on the task of finding a negotiated agreement that parties will regard as “win-win” (Klick and Wright, 2012).10

Acting on behalf of genuine interests can require negotiation. Negotiation tends to require compromise on positions. So-called values sometimes are glorified positions with little connection to real interests. Climate change may be the most uncomfortable example. I know someone who was censured by his department explicitly because he edited a volume wherein a contributing author wrote that an effective response to climate change would start by acknowledging an ongoing controversy over what is changing, what is causing the change, how such change poses a problem, and what if anything would mitigate the problem. The worry: people are being ostracized for taking a scientific interest as opposed to a political position. We have evidence of a major problem, we have made little progress toward identifying an effective response, yet we bully colleagues into behaving as if the time for scientific inquiry as over. This seems a hysterical rather than a rational reaction to the possibility that our interest in mitigating climate change is altogether real.

Let us concede to Mark Sagoff that at its best, government “regulation expresses what we believe, what we are, what we stand for as a nation” (Sagoff, 1988: 16). Yet however true and important Sagoff’s point may be, we never want to find ourselves endorsing regulations only because of what they symbolize. Before endorsing regulations, we should want to be sure they do not undermine a value in the course of symbolizing it.11

To do that, we must anticipate how a regulation will work, what it will induce people to do, in practice. Otherwise, if we let ourselves be swayed by symbolic value unreflectively, we are in effect taking an environmentalist position at the expense of an environmental interest. In the process, we do precisely what the theory and practice of conflict resolution teaches us to avoid.12

3 A Lesson for Environmental Ethics

We environmental philosophers spend a lot of time discussing what we call environmental justice, but we never (to my knowledge) discuss environmental conflict resolution. A general unease on the part of consumers of this literature—a feeling that there is something “ivory tower” about the whole idea of environmental justice—is not misleading. Some purported ideals have a tangible reality. They are worthy of aspiration in the real world. These include ideals of environmental conflict resolution. The rhetoric of environmental justice too often (p. 522) is something else, a form of posturing not even intended to inspire conflicting or potentially conflicting parties to work toward building better lives together.

From a mediator’s perspective, the test of theory is how it works in practice, and in practice there is no progress without negotiation and compromise, aiming for a solution that everyone can live with. It is one thing to triumph by the lights of a particular ideology. It is another thing to get a result with which no one is delighted but to which parties can adjust without feeling as if they are being sacrificed on the altar of a vision that they do not (and are not expected to) share.

In our theorizing about justice, we want to imagine morally pristine original positions from which bargaining can proceed untainted by contingent historical circumstance. That is the wrong thing to imagine. In the real world, we start from here. If we want to make progress starting from here, then we have to theorize about what can be built on a foundation of here and now: what is feasible and what people with different histories and incompatible expectations can count as progress starting from here. Actual progress starting from here, needing the cooperation of other stakeholders who have no reason to regard our claims as trumping theirs, and who may or may not share our values, will be unlike what we imagine justice to be.13 So much the worse for what we imagine justice to be. A mediator deals with actual situations.

Whether our theorizing matters will depend on whether we can do likewise. Environmental ethicists need to start with conflict on the ground rather than with visions. If humanity were a decision-making entity whose components had no hopes and dreams of their own, we could imagine this “whole” rationally pruning itself back, amputating overgrown parts, thus making room for wildlife. But consider how unconscionable it would be to apply this superficially biocentric ideal to the people of Africa. In Africa, if people succeed in protecting their habitat, it will be because protecting their habitat is in their interest, not because doing so is in the interest of “the whole.”

As Ben Minteer notes in his entry on Pragmatism for this volume, “environmental ethics would benefit from a significant collaboration with sustainability science. And this argument can similarly be pushed harder: the field of environmental ethics ought to adopt a more praxis-oriented approach, that is, it should engage actual and pressing sustainability problems at the intersection of science, value, and society.” Minteer is thinking specifically about the biological sciences, but presumably he would agree that transdisciplinary sustainability science needs to encompass social science too.14 In any case, consider that when we philosophers say our principles should be put into practice, we imply that our principles are consistent with sound practice. But that implies that we have done our homework. So never actually doing the hard work of grounding our theories in requirements of sound practice, but nevertheless going ahead and recommending our theory to practitioners, would be dishonest. When practitioners ignore such theorizing, they manifestly do the right thing.

4 Ecology as Economics

Conflicting priorities tend to be economic as well as environmental conflicts. The conflicts have their roots in circumstances where decision makers face different trade-offs. Such conflicts will not be resolved as environmental conflicts unless treated as economic conflicts.

People first absorbing the basic tenets of ecological reasoning can wave the flag for such reasoning within narrow confines but then overlook the need to apply ecological reasoning (p. 523) to human ecology. Environmentalists often view the field of economics with suspicion, regarding it as enemy territory. Even mainstream philosophers like Eugene Hargrove sometimes flatly dismiss “the economic approach to nature preservation” (1989: 210). Hargrove’s attitude makes sense in context. I, too, reject any “economic approach” that consists of aiming to treat all values as nothing more than prices (Sagoff, 1981).

However, seeing the limits of economic value-reductionism is one thing; ignoring the logic of economic systems is another. When priorities conflict, ignoring the economic logic of human interaction is environmentally unsound. In that sense, failing to take an economic approach is failing to take an ecological approach.

Economic and ecological reasoning alike are ways of reasoning about competition, scarcity, unintended consequences, and the general principles that describe the logic of how systems respond to attempts to manipulate them. Because systems have a logic, we can never take for granted that an intervention will work as intended. Having one’s heart in the right place is not enough. Progress requires a willingness to work with a system’s logic rather than against it. We may be able to predict how people or elephants will respond, but we are never in a position simply to decide how they will respond. Even dictators cannot decide how things are going to go, any more than exterminators can decide whether insects will evolve resistance to a pesticide.

Preservationist ideals express reverence for nature and respect for animals. They are a way of taking ourselves seriously as moral agents. However, preservationism often and predictably fails in contexts where people who do not (and perhaps cannot afford to) embrace a preservationist ideal are expected to take responsibility for realizing it. Our frustration may tempt us to see their recalcitrant behavior as ignorant, but the truth in that case is that we are the ones who are refusing to track reality.

Within the environmental community, we all see the attraction of Aldo Leopold’s view of humans as plain citizens of the biotic community (Leopold, 1966: 240). But Leopold was calling not only for realistic humility but for realistic logic. He aspired to a unified view of the logic of ecosystems in which human action is a key part. He would agree with Bryan Norton and with Gary Varner that the theoretical separation of anthropocentrism from biocentrism obscures a more fundamental fact that now, more than ever, even from an anthropocentric perspective, we have compelling reason for learning to think biocentrically (Varner, 1998: 129).

Varner is right, as is Norton. I wish only to add that the point works both ways: we have biocentric reasons for thinking anthropocentrically. If we do not tend to people, we will not be tending to ecosystems to which people belong either. When we ignore anthropocentric perspectives, we fall into assessing options as though priorities unlike our own (and possibly values very much like our own!) do not count: a disastrous oversight even from a biocentric perspective.

To ignore priorities unlike our own is to commit ourselves to mismanaging ecologies in which those ignored priorities are a driving force.15 Africans often seem to understand: policies that work take humanity into account. Consider Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE program. In its heyday, under the auspices of CAMPFIRE, village headmen in local districts were authorizing hunting permits, tourist ventures, and so on. Local communities were keeping 80% of the revenue. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) opposed such programs initially but did a 180-degree turn as key decision makers within that organization came to grasp that in Africa, we are not an invasive species. Human beings and their ancestors have been (p. 524) keystone species within African ecosystems for millions of years, and their presence needs to be factored into ecological models accordingly. WWF came to champion CAMPFIRE’s Rhodesian precursors in the mid-1970s and actively worked to persuade village headmen of the economic benefits of, for example, using a bidding process to allocate hunting permits.16 Within a generation, hunting was generating so much money that villagers were taking down fences and letting rangeland revert to wildlife habitat (Matzke and Nabane, 1996: 80).17

This is not to ignore the fact that preservationists tend to find the whole idea of sport hunting appalling. But we naturally assume what is in fact untrue: namely that regular tourism is benign whereas hunting by comparison is relatively destructive. In truth, tourism tends to do more environmental damage than hunting relative to the money it brings in; dollar for dollar, hunting requires less infrastructure. Hunters demand relatively less than do tourist resorts by way of swimming pools and wilderness-fragmenting highways.

The sad end to this encouraging tale is that within a year of my visit, Zimbabwe became one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships, its economy shattered. So-called war veterans were authorized first to resettle the lands of evicted white farmers. Having eaten all they could find on once-productive farms, these people are now settling in the national parks and poaching the wildlife.

Bans on hunting and on trade in wildlife products sometimes are vehicles for making a statement and proving that one’s heart is in the right place. This aim is not illegitimate on its face, but neither does it have an obvious connection to the further aim of actually saving a species. The first aim is a position, the second is a genuine interest, and connecting the two is an achievement. To keep one’s interests and positions together, one has to understand cause and effect in markets for hunting and wildlife products. And one has to anticipate that markets will take different shapes and will have different effects in different countries and as applied to different species. CAMPFIRE was a unique, home-grown market in rural Zimbabwe that achieved real success for a time, but the planet on which CAMPFIRE evolved is long on possibilities and short on guarantees, and the program may not outlive an increasingly corrupt and senile dictator.

There are examples of people and wildlife flourishing together, but those circumstances are not easily replicated, and they can be ephemeral. The truth seems to be that there is no settled answer, and perhaps never will be a “one size fits all” answer, to the question of what sort of response to the problem of conflicting priorities would give us the best chance of saving charismatic species. It is one thing to theorize about the effects of well-enforced property rights, or well-enforced bans, but (to put it mildly) effective enforcement in sub-Saharan Africa cannot be taken for granted. We understand that effective enforcement is a function of whether local people have the ability and the incentive to protect wildlife. In turn, whether they have ability or incentive depends greatly in whether wildlife is help or hindrance when it comes to feeding their children.

5 Natural Enemies

Some of us endorse economic values. Some endorse preservationist values. This does not make us enemies. Indeed, some of us embrace both, without being conflicted. If we want (p. 525) the actions of others—if indeed we want our own actions—to be environmentally sound, we must work to understand human ecology. We should resist the temptation to see economics as the enemy, if for no other reason than that such antipathy is environmentally unsound. It distracts us from thinking about human beings in realistically ecological terms, thus distracting us from resolving conflicts of priorities in environmentally benign ways.

Where there is conflict, especially where conflict is more specifically a conflict of priorities, we must put people first, if we care about people, or even if we do not. Suppose we care only about wildlife but that our concern is not merely to prove that our hearts are in the right place but to make room for wildlife. In that case, we would start by acknowledging that whether there will be room for wildlife is a question to be decided mainly by the people who live with it, and they will decide for reasons of their own.

It is within our power to make sacrifices for the sake of wildlife preservation and ecological sustainability. It is in some sense in our power to sacrifice other people to our cause if and when we judge our cause to be that important. As a matter of fact, however, it is not in our power to choose that other people sacrifice themselves, and this fact—about what is within our power and what is not—is central to the ecological and wildlife issues we now face. (See John Meyer on Sacrifice in this volume.) Other people’s choices are theirs to make, and they will choose by the lights of their own values and priorities.

Expecting African farmers to regard their family’s health and safety as a lower priority than African wildlife is not a winning strategy. We might want to do that—take a hard-line position—to prove that our hearts are in the right place but not if our hearts genuinely are in the right place, because we would be proving that our hearts are in the right place by sacrificing the wildlife. If we care about wildlife, we will focus on giving locals reasons to cooperate. Successful terms of cooperation will place our interest in preserving wildlife alongside local interest in being able to live with it.


My work on this essay was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation. I thank the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana for providing a superb work environment in the summers of 2012 and 2013. I also thank the Earhart Foundation for support in the fall of 2013. In particular, I thank Dan Benjamin, Terry Anderson, Dean Lueck, Michael t’Sas-Rolfes, and P. J. Hill for suggestions and collegial support. I remain responsible for errors. This entry is a descendant, thoroughly rewritten, of “Natural Enemies,” originally published in Environmental Ethics, 22 (2000) 397–408. © David Schmidtz.


Fisher, R., and Ury, W. (1991). Getting to Yes, 2nd ed. New York: Penguin Books.Find this resource:

    Hargrove, E. C. (1989). Foundations of Environmental Ethics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Find this resource:

      Klick, J., and Wright, J. (2012). “Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness.” Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Institute for Law and Economic Research.Find this resource:

        Kreuter, U., Peel, M., and Warner, E. (2010). “Wildlife Conservation and Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Southern Africa’s Private Nature Reserves.” Society and Natural Resources 23: 507–524.Find this resource:

          Kreuter, U., and Simmons, R. T. (1995). “Who Owns the Elephants?” Wildlife in the Marketplace, edited by T. Anderson and P. J. Hill, 147–165. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Find this resource:

            Leopold, A. ([1949], 1966). Sand County Almanac. New York: Oxford Press.Find this resource:

              Matzke, G. E., and Nabane, N. (1996). “Outcomes of a Community Controlled Wildlife Utilization Program in a Zambezi Valley Community.” Human Ecology 24: 65–85.Find this resource:

                Moss, C. (1988). Elephant Memories. New York: William Morrow.Find this resource:

                  Norton, B. (1991). Toward Unity Among Environmentalists. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

                    Sagoff, M. (1981). “At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, or Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic.” Arizona Law Review 23: 1283–1298.Find this resource:

                      Sagoff, M. (1988). The Economy of the Earth. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988.Find this resource:

                        Varner, G. (1998). In Nature’s Interests? New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:


                          (1.) I use the term “environmental conflict” to refer to conflict where one party voices concerns about the environmental impact of another party’s projects.

                          (2.) Two definitions: First, a commons tragedy is the result of individually rational use of a common resource culminating in a pattern of collective overuse that exceeds the resource’s carrying capacity. Second, carrying capacity is a core concept of the field of ecology, referring to the level of use or traffic that a resource can sustain indefinitely without degradation.

                          (3.) Property institutions help people avoid, manage, and resolve conflict insofar as they (1) facilitate orderly use of a common resource; (2) facilitate orderly removal of resources from the commons; and (3) help people cope with externalities, including new externalities that emerge as property regimes evolve. Property regimes can be a kind of public good if and when they solve commons problems and induce overall patterns of sustainable use.

                          (4.) Quoting from National Public Radio’s “Can Economics Save the African Rhino?” by Gregory Warner, Planet Money, May 13, 2013. Archived at See also Michael t’Sas-Rolfes, “The Rhino Poaching Crisis: A Market Analysis,” (February 2012). Archived at

                          (5.) Current efforts to save wild rhino populations would presumably continue. Farmed rhinos would be a genomic insurance policy.

                          (6.) See “What Will It Take to Save the East African Lion from Extinction? Hunting or Herding?” Africa Geo editorial (May 31, 2013). Accessed at

                          For some indication of the contrast between Tanzania and Kenya, see also

                          (7.) See John O’Neill’s essay on Economic Systems and Valuation in this volume. I thank Allen Thompson for observing that many people also feel queasy about formalizing rights to pollute in the form of marketable property rights in emissions permits. This uneasiness is about propertization independently of any concerns about moral standing.

                          (8.) Quite properly, however, Bryan Norton (1991: 12–13) cautions against exaggerating the practical importance of the divide between conservation and preservation. Indeed, most of us have both conservationist and preservationist sympathies. Norton argues for a consensus-building approach in the policy arena.

                          (9.) Kreuter and Simmons (1995: 161) conclude that, because elephants “compete directly with humans for use of fertile land, we believe elephants will continue to be eliminated unless they provide … direct personal benefits to the people who incur the cost of coexisting with them.”

                          (10.) For a prosaic example of the hazards of letting factual questions be deemed “politically incorrect,” see Klick and Wright (2012).

                          (11.) My father was a farmer. When I was eight years old, a pair of red foxes built a den and raised a litter in our wheat field. I can remember watching Dad on his tractor in the late afternoon, giving the foxes a wide berth and leaving that part of our field uncultivated that year. He protected the den because he could afford to (and even then, I admired him for it). If there had been a law prohibiting farming on land inhabited by foxes, analogous to laws that prohibit logging in forests inhabited by spotted owls, then Dad would have had to make sure his land was not inhabited by foxes. Which is to say, Dad probably would have killed them. Although he loved them, he would not have been able to afford to let them live.

                          A “No Surprises” regulation was incorporated into the Endangered Species Act in 1998, offering some protection from such possibilities to landowners who enter into a long-term agreement on a Habitat Conservation Plan. The regulation is controversial and survived a serious legal challenge in 2007. I thank Lynn Scarlett, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior, for helpful conversation.

                          (12.) We also need to accept that what we stand for as a nation differs from what we want to stand for. Things for which nations stand are products of ongoing, piecemeal political compromise. We do well not to glorify the expressive value of such compromised ideals.

                          (13.) When justice is treated as dictating destinations rather than as managing traffic, it fails to coordinate. It fails to be a solution to a problem. Progress comes to a halt. Traffic management is a literal issue, but also a metaphor for something more general, namely transaction cost. In all kinds of ways, when we reduce transaction cost, we spur progress.

                          (14.) Minteer speaks of the unresponsiveness of environmental ethics and sustainability science as having to do with “the stubborn methodological and cultural divide between ethics and the natural sciences. Despite its normative character and ubiquitous ‘transdisciplinary’ rhetoric, sustainability science still aspires to be a ‘Science’ committed to naturalistic methods and empirical metrics.”

                          (15.) We could put this point in the language of ecosystem management by saying that effective adaptive management and comprehensive ecological systems thinking must also be an exercise in collaborative management. See the entry by Marion Hourdequin on Ecosystem Management in this volume.

                          (16.) I thank Urs Kreuter for sharing his personal experience of CAMPFIRE’s early history in Rhodesia.

                          (17.) Matzke and Nabane (1996: 80). Note that this is crucial; the bigger threat to wildlife tends to be cattle, not hunting. Cattle crowds out wildlife. Pastoral herds are one problem; farms and ranches are another. Nomadic Maasai herdsmen compete with wildlife for space and water but do not cut off migration routes by erecting fences or otherwise defending their turf. See Moss (1988: 209, 301).