Ben A. Minteer


On his book The Fall of the Wild: Extinction, De-Extinction, and the Ethics of Conservation

Cover Interview of January 16, 2019


I hope The Fall of the Wild makes us think deeply about the moral consequences of our more aggressive efforts to save and restore biodiversity, especially during what appears to be a time of great upheaval in conservation. The caution and restraint characterizing an older preservationist approach to wildlife and wild places have explicitly been called into question by “new” conservationists more enamored of technology and development – and less concerned about safeguarding a wild nature beyond our grasp.

But I also want the book to reach a wider audience, especially readers who may be unfamiliar with some of the events and trends it discusses. Many people care about the future of wild things but simply haven’t had the time or the occasion to stop and think about some of the trade-offs and moral questions raised by our increasingly manipulative and interventionist attempts to conserve a biologically diverse future. The traditional threats to wild species – i.e., bulldozers and bullets, pollution and (over-)population – rightly attract the lion’s share of attention in our conservation efforts. But as the book demonstrates, our impressive conservation techniques and ambitions can also raise troubling concerns about our environmental ethics, especially if we forget that we are merely one species among many, albeit a very clever and uniquely powerful one.

So I hope The Fall of the Wild is successful in carrying this message forward, and that it might spark a larger discussion about what we think we are doing, and, more importantly, what we should be doing, in our dogged fight against extinction.