This is part two 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.
This is the scientific version of the moral argument against hunting I outlined earlier. Many conservationists contend that destroying biodiversity is morally wrong, and recently there have been scientific attempts to prove that a general loss of biodiversity itself (as opposed to habitat destruction or elimination of specifically valuable species) can be bad for us (lost opportunities for medical discoveries, weaker environmental resilience).
As a conservationist myself I think there is a huge amount to be said for this very important argument. But just because something is true, even scientific fact, does not in itself elevate it above other important truths. Political leaders are rightly called upon to balance competing interests. In this case they would ask exactly how much biodiversity would be saved by protecting these whales, and they might legitimately conclude that a sub-species that may already have fallen below the minimum viable population threshold, and might not actually be distinct from its eastern cousins, is not worth getting that worked up about.