Transparency About Values and Assertions of Fact in Natural Resource Management
July 2, 2021
Worldwide, unsustainable use of nature threatens the collapse of ecosystems and the benefits they provide to non-humans and humans alike (Ceballos et al., 2015, 2020; Darimont et al., 2015; Ripple et al., 2017; Ceballos and Ehrlich, 2018; FAO, 2020). Yet, for at least a century, governments and researchers have invoked a long-standing set of scientific models as a basis for the claim that natural resource extraction (particularly of wild animals) is sustainable (Larkin, 1977; Oro, 2013). How can a well-understood and established science of “sustainability” commonly result in unsustainable extraction? We attempt to resolve the seeming paradox by describing the need to disentangle where the science begins and ends in natural resource management (NRM), and how uncertainty in science and mistrust of scientists are both exacerbated by a lack of transparency about value judgments (judgments about what one considers desirable or undesirable for goals and modes of conduct; Manfredo and Dayer, 2004). We acknowledge that all of us struggle to demarcate our observations and inferences about the world from what we desire to be true about the world. Yet, scientists, in particular, should strive for such clarity and openness because the ideal of objectivity in science means that our desires should be regarded as a poor guide to our approximations of reality.
Author(s): Adrian Treves, Paul C. Paquet, Kyle A. Artelle, Ari M. Cornman, Miha Krofel, and Chris T. Darimont