This year marks the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which helped launch the modern environmental movement. Since then we have seen the ban of the pesticide DDT, the formation of the EPA and the creation of the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. We have brought back species from the brink of extinction. And we have protected some of the world’s greatest places.
Environmentalists have these and many other successes to celebrate, and this kind of work will remain important. But the next fifty years present a whole new set of challenges. Our growing needs for food, water and energy, coupled with a rapidly changing climate, are straining the natural systems that sustain us all.
Meeting these challenges will require the conservation field to be more science-driven than ever before.
To that end, it is very encouraging to see the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) induct Peter Kareiva, Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy, as one of their newest members this weekend for his excellence in original scientific research. As a NAS member, Peter joins an elite group dedicated to furthering science and technology and their use for the public good. For nearly a century and a half, NAS members have advised our nation’s leaders on policy matters related to their fields.
NAS’s recognition of Peter is an important signal about the valuable role that conservation science can play in solving important global challenges, from food security and water scarcity to the impacts of climate change.
Peter and his colleagues throughout the conservation community are making enormous contributions to the field, changing the way we think about protecting nature. Voices like Peter’s are pushing us to develop new conservation models that balance the needs of people and nature. They are helping us better articulate and quantify the economic value of healthy ecosystems, which provide us with clean air and water, food, fiber, fuel and natural flood control. They are developing tools to help produce more food and energy with less pollution and habitat destruction. And they are helping us be ever more precise in measuring the results of our work.
In this tough economic environment, when governments, businesses, and NGOs alike are working to achieve maximum results from limited resources, science must play an ever more important role in guiding our decisions.
Congratulations to all the scientists inducted to NAS today who are working to address our most pressing societal needs and challenges.
(Image: Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy’s Chief Scientist photographed at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. Image credit: © Dave Lauridsen)