This is part four of a seven part series on my views on the philosophy of conservation and the case of the Western Grey Whales off Sakhalin in particular – see Richard Black’s article for an introduction. If you are coming to this blog new, before you read this and other posts in this series please consider reading my earlier one and voting in the poll.
In that poll I offered the option that: “Conservation and development should be balanced, but sacrificing biodiversity to extract more fossil fuels which will just increase global warming is not a sensible trade off.”
With this point of view we start to move away from the purist conservation arguments, but then circle back with the global concern of climate change. This argument however falls down in trying to address a global problem with a very localised solution. Global warming is certainly not going to be halted by stopping the development of the Sakhalin oil and gas fields alone, neither is there any plausible strategy in which an initial victory here translates into an international movement to prevent all further fossil fuel exploration and thus a transition to a cleaner economy.
In adopting this argument one would be essentially asking the people of Sakhalin and the Russian government to forego local development for the sake of a global good when others are not making similar sacrifices. Quite apart from the political naiveté this demonstrates, in my opinion this argument is a fig leaf for much more real concerns about local conservation or an anti-developmental agenda. Global climate change is the most pressing issue of the day, and the international political deadlock on it is deeply disappointing, but stopping Sakhalin is not the solution.