Friday, June 24, 2011

How Much Is Enough? by Laura Bies

The final deal struck on the Nokobee tract would protect 90% of it. Two alligators would be moved across the lake, from one shore to another. Raff is happy with the deal, Bill Robbins writes a complementary newspaper article on it, and an award from The Nature Conservancy is rumored. The ending of the book brings up a common question for conservationists: how much is enough? How much is enough land to protect from development? How large must a population of a certain species be for it to thrive? How clean should our water and air be? In some instances, there may not be a ‘right’ answer. Wildlife biologists can tell us how large a population of a species we need for it to survive and thrive. But how much land should we protect from development?

In the case of the Nokobee tract, there were obviously many different ways it could have turned out. The entire tract could have been developed, assuming the developers could get around any restrictions regarding rare species on the land. Or it could have been purchased by an NGO or other entity that would put the entirety of the tract in a conservation easement or used another mechanism to make sure it was never developed. Wilson chose to show that in some cases, reasonable development can coexist with conservation. Would it have been a more fulfilling ending if a conservation group swooped in with enough money to purchase the tract and protect the whole thing?

3 comments:

divrsify said...

I think 100% is more fulfilling than 90%, but I'm sure the wildlife don't mind a B+ as an alternative to us constantly failing on protecting habitat for them and the benefits that nature provides.

Jared Burton said...

I think that the ending as it has been written is more fulfilling. An alternative ending where 100% is saved would be too much of a "Hollywood" ending. On the other hand, if Raff had only secured a deal that protected 50% of Nokobee, I would have welcomed an ending where a conservation group swoops in to save the day. Especially if was led by his ex-girlfriend from Harvard!

Kate said...

I agree with other readers above that the end as written seems more real. However, it also seems that the question can only be answered well in the context of a broader landscape level or even national level conservation effort. How important is the Nokobee Tract as a representative piece of North America's natural heritage? The more important the tract in the context of the whole, the less acceptable compromise becomes. And, at some level, if we're not tracking compromise across the landscape, we'll hit a threshold where compromise becomes complete failure. This one development, this one tract of land, is just a small piece of the overall picture and it seems all to frequently that we don't have the overall picture in mind as development decisions are being made OR we lack the resources and information in order to understand how our decisions fit into a bigger context.