Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



In his opening statement, Professor Russell gives two reasons why humankind should worry about the diversity of life on earth: (1) diversity is thought to make ecological systems more resilient to natural and man-made shocks; and (2) diversity provides a library of genetic information upon which society may draw. Professor Russell nevertheless warns against the notion that a 'safety-first" or safe minimum standard approach to environmental preservation is the correct response to these concerns. First, 'safety" is impossible to define. And, second, preserving all systems at all costs demands that society forego significant current economic rewards that result from altering some ecological systems. Some judgments are necessary about specific preservation versus development alternatives, even though society will inevitably make such decisions in a condition of ignorance about both the future costs and the exact amount of the current gains. Professor Russell concludes by offering two suggestions on how preservation can be made to work better. First, species should be preserved indirectly by protecting the environment in which they exist. Second, local human populations should be given economic incentives to participate in the preservation efforts.