The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity

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Justin Garson, Anya Plutynski, Sahotra Sarkar
Routledge, Oct 4, 2016 - Philosophy - 350 pages

Biological diversity - or ‘biodiversity’ - is the degree of variation of life within an ecosystem. It is a relatively new topic of study but has grown enormously in recent years. Because of its interdisciplinary nature the very concept of biodiversity is the subject of debate amongst philosophers, biologists, geographers and environmentalists.

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity is an outstanding reference source to the key topics and debates in this exciting subject. Comprising twenty-three chapters by a team of international contributors the Handbook is divided into six parts:

  • Historical and sociological contexts, focusing on the emergence of the term and early attempts to measure biodiversity
  • What is biodiversity? How should biodiversity be defined? How can biodiversity include entities at the edge of its boundaries, including microbial diversity and genetically engineered organisms?
  • Why protect biodiversity? What can traditional environmental ethics contribute to biodiversity? Topics covered include anthropocentrism, intrinsic value, and ethical controversies surrounding the economics of biodiversity
  • Measurement and methodology: including decision-theory and conservation, the use of indicators for biodiversity, and the changing use of genetics in biodiversity conservation
  • Social contexts and global justice: including conservation and community conflicts and biodiversity and cultural values
  • Biodiversity and other environmental values: How does biodiversity relate to other values like ecological restoration or ecological sustainability?

Essential reading for students and researchers in philosophy, environmental science and environmental studies, and conservation management, it will also be extremely useful to those studying biodiversity in subjects such as biology and geography.


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Always awkward when the Introduction of a book does not reflect its contents.
The editors claim "Biological diversity - or ‘biodiversity’ - is the degree of variation of life within an ecosystem
It is appropriate that they refer to "variation" - this accords with the core CBD and IPBES definitions. It nicely avoids the weaker definitions ,where "biodiversity" is all-of-nature, or is equated with whatever aspect of ecology supports ecosystem services.
But it is unfortunate that they claim this variation is "within an ecosystem."
As the chapter by Faith notes, biodiversity is often described, and valued, globally.
Further, Faith argues that the unrealistic, but fashionable, treatment of biodiversity as a within- ecosystem concern often has resulted in a neglect of global biodiversity values. These values include the option value of biodiversity.
Viewed positively, this book nicely captures the ongoing tension among the different usages, definitions - and values - of biodiversity.
Daniel P Faith
The Australian Museum


List of figures
Part I
a historical perspective
Approaches to biodiversity
Is biodiversity a natural quality?

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About the author (2016)

Justin Garson is an Associate Professor of philosophy at Hunter College of the City University of New York, USA.

Anya Plutynski is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, USA.

Sahotra Sarkar is Professor in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, USA.

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