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New book by faculty member tackles environmental questions

10/2/2000
October 2, 2000

Preserving endangered species is a politically popular stance. But who decides which species to protect? And at what cost? Can people in one country tell those in another how to use their natural resources?

Dr. Mark Michael, associate professor in the department of history and philosophy, has stepped into the debate. Michael is editor of "Preserving Wildlife: An International Perspective," a just-released anthology he began working on more than four years ago because there was, he says, "a gap in the literature on this topic." The anthology is a collection of essays with varying viewpoints on topics related to the preservation of wildlife, from ecofeminism to ranchers' war on wolves.

Michael sees the primary audience for this book as those working in environmental ethics, but it also has value for ecologists, sociologists and political theorists interested in environmental issues.

"It's not just about environmentalism in the U.S., but how to encourage Third World countries to preserve their wildlife," he says. "How do we both preserve wildlife and respect people living in that environment?"

It's a matter of practicality, he adds. "People living nearby must have a reason to preserve wildlife. They have legitimate wants and needs too."

Michael says he approaches environmental ethics from both a practical and theoretical viewpoint. He finds that research and teaching go together—when he teaches, he thinks of good questions. "Trying to answer those questions as part of my research helps me to learn more, and I become a better teacher."

The realm of environmental ethics presents plenty of questions, and Michael asks them. One example offered in the book: the mountain goats in Olympic National Park. "Are they native?" Michael asks. "They are destroying a lot of plants. Some ecologists would say, ‘Shoot them,' while others say, ‘They are part of the eco-system.'"

His anthology addresses both sides of that issue and others. But Michael is quick to point out he that it takes help to compile such an anthology. He received help from Carol Kimmel and the entire interlibrary loan staff at APSU's Woodward Library. "She located libraries with copies of articles I thought no one would find," he says.

Gathering those articles also helped Michael to bring the anthology's theme into focus. "You begin with a general idea of what you want to say, and as articles come in, the form suggests itself to you," he says.

Essays in the book are broken into four categories: "Individuals and Wildlife Preservation," "Strategies for Conservation and Management," "People, Politics, and Wildlife" and "Utilizing Wildlife."

Michael hopes the anthology will spark debate. After all, there are no easy answers.