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Five Objections to Decision Science in Conservation

By Hugh Possingham

What are the main objections to decision science, and why they are wrong?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Since 1994 I have given more than 300 seminars to every manner of audience on how decision science can inform environmental management. In that time I’ve received a wide range of arguments about why decision theory tools should not be applied to conservation problems. Here I review the most common objections and suggest that they are wrong, but I’m going to go further and say that natural resource management in Australia must embrace the tools of decision science.

It’s important to dispel the myths surrounding these objections. As a nation we’re failing hopelessly to secure Australia’s biodiversity. In recent decades the Australian government has spent billions of dollars on natural resource management, and in most cases the allocation decisions behind this expenditure have been ad hoc and opaque.

So, here are the five most common objections with their strengths and weaknesses.

Objection 1. It’s based on models: “This is all ecological modelling and ecological models are all wrong.”
Well, of course this is correct: all models of everything are wrong. The only perfect model for something is the thing itself, and then it ceases to be a model. However, models are our only way of predicting the future, and if you are a manager you must be predicting the future as a consequence of actions – otherwise you could never take an action....

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.