So I've recently derailed two threads thanks to a chip I have on my shoulder with regards to wildlife conservation. I figured I should outline my views here (and more importantly how I developed this chip) so I can argue about it without (hopefully) derailing any more threads. Like many people of my generation, I was raised on the importance of conservation, which took on almost a religious tone. However to me as a child the purpose was clear: there will be more neat animals to look at in majestic forests. Later, I learned about all of the neat things we're learning even from species we thought were well-known, and added that as a reason. However by the time I was a teenager I was becoming uncomfortable with a lot of conservation organizations, because I felt that they had a holier-than-thou attitude. I first encountered this as a kid in the book She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head, where the birdwatchers of the first Audubon Society condemn the hunters for wanting to hunt the birds before forming a reluctant alliance with them. Since my uncle is a member of Ducks Unlimited, I've been well-aware of the value hunters bring to the conservation movement for a long time. Later, I learned about the devastation ecotourism often brings, and found the criticism of hunters particularly hypocritical. I encountered it again when I started keeping parrots. In the case of a lot of parrots, the reason they're endangered in the first place is because of the pet trade. However the US bans the trade in wild-caught birds, and breeders began breeding many parrots. The hyacinth macaw, for example, is ubiquituous in captivity. Meanwhile, many of these birds are facing threats both from the trade to third world countries, and habitat destruction back home. Aviculturalists are part of the solution, yet because they breed parrots for fun and profit, they don't match the platonic ideal of the selfless conservationist. I saw conservationists speaking out against the pet trade without any reference to the contributions made by private aviculturalists; I saw animal rights groups conflating aviculture with bird smuggling, and it infuriated me. I remember reading about how the Florida alligator was rescued in large part thanks to alligator farms meeting demands for leather and gator meat. And while the threats facing the Florida manatee weren't quite the same thing, I remember looking at them in tanks, thinking "these majestic creatures look delicious," and regretting that it seemed unlikely a similar program for manatees would ever be established. In high school, I took an environmental science class, and was stunned when my professor spoke in favor of both GMOs and nuclear power. Yet he presented the evidence, and as I tried to rationalize a lifetime of opposition to these things which I'd based on conservationist literature which mainly appealed to emotions, I realized that the guy who taught environmental science was right. I also realized that a lot of supposed conservationists are just as anti-science as the abstinence-only creationists I'd looked down on in other parts of the country, that for many of them their positions were about signalling morality rather than sound science. Later, I learned about how many Hawai'ian honeycreepers and the Kauai o'o had died out after modern conservation efforts were well underway. It seemed so obvious to me that introduced predators were a problem that I could not understand why Hawai'i and/or the FWS would not have tried to take in critically-endangered species for ex situ breeding. (Part of the issue may have been that they don't breed well in captivity, but New Zealand has addressed this admirably via the use of offshore islands.) I had much the same reaction when the last wild Spix's macaws disappeared, likely into the illegal pet trade, and when the reintroduction of captive-bred mynahs to mainland Bali seemed to result in a greater number of mynahs in the Indonesian bird trade rather than in the wild on Bali. Sometimes in situ efforts just seem worse than pointless to me, usually when the underlying cause of endangerment hasn't been addressed. And I remember back in the 2000's reading about zoos talking about how they realized they needed to give the people who lived in an area an incentive to preserve it in order for them not to continue the destructive practices they'd been engaged in and thinking "Really? It took you guys until the 21st Century to figure out that telling people 'it's wrong to kill gorillas for bushmeat' and setting up protected areas with a few guards isn't going to save the gorillas?" The final straw for me was the story of the scimitar-horned oryx. It wasn't breeding well in zoos and was about to go extinct in its homeland. A rancher in Texas offered some of his land to propagate the species and it exceeded his expectations. He gave surplus to other ranchers on the condition that they donate a certain portion of the herd to conservation efforts, and they're hunted at tens of thousands a bucks a pop. In response to this remarkable success story, the AZA amended its ethics code to prevent a repeat, and conservation organizations got the FWS to add the oryx to the endangered species list. That was the point that I decided that for a lot of supposed conservationists, the purpose of conservation isn't actually conservation, but the ability to appear holier-than-thou. Too many of the most prominent conservationists are all-too-happy to let the perfect be the enemy of the good (like opposing nuclear power and cleaner fossil fuels in the hopes that people will magically turn to renewable energy), other times their views of "the perfect" outright conflict with mine. Either way, as someone who cares strongly about conservation, I find the views of many conservation organizations frankly frustrating. Sometimes when conservationists take position that seems conservation-unfriendly, their concerns seem plausible, if wrong. Opposition to flooding the market for rhino horn with fake rhino horn falls into that category. Other times, their positions seem utterly idiotic, like New Zealand not allowing zoos to have male snakes, and refusing to allow non-New Zealand zoos to export and breed New Zealand mammals and birds, or Hawai'i adopting the "do what we can in situ and hope for the best" strategy with their remaining honeycreepers. And I think about how Europe doesn't allow the import of wild-caught birds even for zoos, meaning that the great bird parks of Europe cannot import and breed species which are critically endangered in their native habitats due to the pet trade and/or habitat loss, and I want to tear my hair out. (Particularly because the paranoia of the farm lobby here in the US means that even zoos can't import birds from hotbeds of species endangerment like Indonesia.) I still consider myself a conservationist. But I believe that my desire to conserve thing is essentially selfish, and I have no problem with that. I want to use the earth's biodiversity, whether it's watching it in the wild, keeping it as a pet, eating it, or simply being comforted in knowing it's there. I want to learn from it. But in the long term Earth has survived five extinctions and will survive this one. It's how enjoyable what's left will be for humans which worries me. And so the moralizing tendencies that a lot of conservationists have frustrate me, the frustration slipping over to anger when it starts to impact policies. So yeah, that's the story (or most of it) as to why I have a giant chip on my shoulder, and why I'm very skeptical of a lot of supposedly pro-conservation measures.