At their Annual General Meeting in Lillooet on 26 May 2007, the BC Field Ornithologists (BCFO) adopted a position on the fundamental conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation. The BCFO addresses the study and enjoyment of wild birds in British Columbia through research and conservation efforts to preserve birds and their habitats.
The timing of the vote was opportune as Birdlife International announced the previous week that 22% of the planet’s birds are now at increased risk of extinction. A total of 1,221 bird species are presently considered threatened with extinction and an additional 812 species are considered Near Threatened, an increase of 28 species from last year. In British Columbia, 43 avian taxa are considered extirpated, endangered, or threatened and a further 48 species are of special concern.
Dr. James Ginns, BCFO President, noted that “Our position statement is precedent setting in that the BCFO is one of the first conservation organizations in British Columbia to focus attention on the causes of biodiversity declines rather than simply focusing on the symptoms as most environmental organizations are doing today. Unless the causes of the problem are addressed, biodiversity declines are likely to continue.”
One of the causes for these declines is economic growth. The economy grows by appropriating natural capital from the economy of nature (ecosystems) and using it for the human economy. As the human economy expands it removes resources, displaces healthy ecosystems, and degrades remaining ecosystems with waste.
Thus, economic growth reduces the quality and quantity of bird habitat when it’s converted as throughput to the human economy. It’s this growth that tends to swamp any gains made through conservation and policy efforts.
Similar positions on economic growth have been sanctioned by a number of professional scientific organizations in North America including The Society for Conservation Biology, The United States Society for Ecological Economics, The Wildlife Society, and The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.
The BCFO position explains not only the fundamental conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation, but identifies an alternative: the steady state economy.