An article in the Journal for Nature Conservation entitled ‘Intrinsic values in nature; Objective good or simply half of an unhelpful dichotomy?’ provides a useful background for doctors seeking to understand some of the philosophical challenges facing conservation.

Far from a theoretical debate, these challenges directly impact how and why natural spaces are conserved, and ultimately the success of these in the context of the wellbeing of our earth as a whole. It is therefore central to how doctors would approach wellbeing thinking for the environment.

The debate centers around whether nature should be protected for human’s sake or for nature’s sake. Doctors may be tempted towards defending the health of humans. However, the complexity of the issue emerges when we view our current climate crisis – a direct threat to human health – as the result of human-centric actions. 

“The conveyance of our moral responsibility towards the biosphere need not be expressed to the exclusion of human well-being; but a “good life” for humankind can only exist within a future that is secured by a sustainable biosphere. How good a life would it be in an impoverished biosphere anyway?”

 Just as a doctor does not make a medical decision in favour of one organ or system in the human body without considering the impacts on the others, it is difficult to imagine that making decisions based only on the value to one organism in our ecosystem can result in long term good.