Strange bedfellows? Techno-fixes and conservation

I have a new paper out in the peer-reviewed journal Biological Conservation that will be of interest to BNC readers.

It is called “Strange bedfellows? Techno-fixes to solve the big conservation issues in southern Asia“, by Barry W. Brook & Corey J.A. Bradshaw. Here are some details:


The conservation challenges facing mega-biodiverse South and Southeast Asia in the 21st century are enormous. For millennia, much of the habitat of these regions was only lightly modified by human endeavour, yet now it is experiencing rampant deforestation, logging, biofuel cropping, invasive species expansion, and the synergies of climate change, drought, fire and sea-level rise. Although small-scale conservation management might assist some species and habitats, the broader sweep of problems requires big thinking and some radical solutions. Given the long expected lead times between progressive economic development and stabilization of human population size and consumption rates, we argue that ‘technological fixes’ cannot be ignored if we are to address social and fiscal drivers of environmental degradation and associated species extinctions in rapidly developing regions like southern Asia.

The pursuit of cheap and abundant ‘clean’ energy from an economically rational mix of nuclear power, geothermal, solar, wind, and hydrogen-derivative ‘synfuels’, is fundamental to this goal. This will permit pathways of high-tech economic development that include intensified (high energy-input) agriculture over small land areas, full recycling of material goods, a transition from fossil-fuel use for transport and electricity generation, a rejection of tropical biofuels that require vast areas of arable land for production, and a viable alternative to the damming of major waterways like the Mekong, Murum and northern tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers for hydroelectricity. Rational approaches that work at large scales must be used to deal with the ultimate, rather than just proximate, drivers of biodiversity loss in the rapidly developing regions of southern Asia.