chapter  8
16 Pages

The Conservation Criterion

The Conservationist Ethic IN CONTRAST to the economists, the conservationists do not spell out criteria in precise mathematical detail. It is not even clear what the definition of "conservation" is. While the view of the economist is a little like a theology, the view of the conservationist is more like that of a religion. That is to say, the former is likely to give rise to a closed system of ideas, the latter to a less analytically precise system of values. One explanation of this vagueness is in the conservation movement's political origins.1 As a political movement it used slogans, made compromises, and was tempered by the personalities of its leaders. Hays dates the first conservation movement from 1890 to 1920,2 and at its peak, when Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot were in power, it was remarkably successful. Roosevelt tripled the amount of forest under control of the Forest Service, ostensibly out of the greedy hands of private industry. The conservation movement spilled over from natural resources to anti-industrialization, anti-immigration, trust-busting, and pure food laws, among other things.