The courage of hopelessness: a transformative change for conservation sciences

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Marco Malavasi


As the twenty-first century unfolds, the human-driven decline of life on Earth is of greater concern and, despite tremendous growth in the volume of conservation science and many local successes, shows no clear signs of improvement. As a matter of fact, the reversal of nature’s ongoing decline is only possible with urgent “transformative change”
However, no transformative changes are viable without first accepting that, as many other species, we may be bound for extinction and that no time or solutions may be left to reverse nature’s decline. In light of this, I aim at provokingly inspiring the “courage of hopelessness”, while paradoxically providing the leverage to think differently.
To this end I will remind that: 1) the main reports and projections about nature’s decline paint a gloomy picture for the future of contemporary societies; 2) the destructive fingerprint of modern human societies (i.e., capitalist enterprise), although being just one of the many expressions in the evolution of human cultures, is now dominant and necessarily finds its root in the human biology, thus in the way our species is cognitively coupled with the environment (i.e. conscious purpose and dualistic thinking); 3) such destructive fingerprint is particularly difficult to modify since we are naturally reluctant to change habits and beliefs even when we know they lead into error.
Considering this, I suggest moving forward from the widely accepted but timed-out metaphor of conservation as a “crisis discipline”, which intrinsically suggests a temporary state and an optimistic perspective, in favour of a more “palliative” attitude towards our times.



Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Studies, Life Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences


conscious purpose, dualistic thining, embrace extinction, habit formation, human behaviour, nature decline


Published: 2022-07-30 04:38

Last Updated: 2022-09-13 15:09

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