17. Are we conserving for the right reasons? (Sharachchandra Lele)

December 2021


Much has been written about why we wish to protect nature. The initial motivation for conservation was ostensibly for nature's own sake. Around the 1980s, the concept of ecosystem services began to highlight ways in which we depend on nature, as a motivation for conservation. Ecosystem services and similar concepts now dominate the discourse. But do they adequately describe our relationship with nature?

Sharachchandra Lele (or Sharad, for short) is Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Policy & Governance at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & the Environment (ATREE) in Bangalore. After starting his career as an engineer, he went on to earn a PhD in Energy & Resources at UC Berkeley. Since then he has held positions as Senior Research Associate at the Pacific Institute, and fellowships or visiting fellowships at Harvard, Stanford and Cambridge Universities.

Links to resources:

Time stamps:

02:46: Sharad's career change, from engineering to conservation and related topics

07:37: The nuanced and complex history of ecosystem services concepts

16:26: Trade-offs between ecosystem services; ecosystem disservices

23:21: How does biodiversity fit into a framework for viewing our relationship with nature?

30:15: Why are human development indicators improving while environmental indicators worsen?

37:40: What should be our motivation for conserving nature?

48:02: Are generic frameworks really useful to describe our relationship with nature?