Are you confused or unsatisfied with current definitions to differentiate preservation from conservation? Here is a step-by-step approach to deciphering the nature of these concepts.
While the terms preservation and conservation have been used almost alternately when talking about environmental issues or matters, there is a distinction between these two words. Preservation is different from conservation.
How are these two resource management approaches different from each other? This article aims to clarify these two concepts in the light of available definitions and practices.
Definition of Preservation
Merriam-Webster defines preservation as ‘to keep safe from injury, harm or destruction.’ The term preservation was derived from Latin prae– + servare. Prae- is the archaic variant of the prefix pre– which means before, earlier or prior to. Servare is the present infinitive of servō, which means ‘watch over, maintain, protect, keep, guard, save, or store.’ Therefore, the two Latin words taken together and to encompass all the descriptions of preservation means:
- to watch over,
- to maintain,
- to protect,
- to keep,
- to guard,
- to save, and
- to store.
Based on these definitions, in the environmental context, preservation calls for a ‘no touch’ policy, to keep whatever existing natural resources there are, to its present condition. The emphasis is on maintaining the integrity of the natural resource. Strict protection implied for a defined period anticipates the value it can give to present, as well as, future generations.
As a matter of government policy, for example, it may set aside and declare a forest as a protected area. One of the features of a protected area is the core zone. The core zone is that specific area with defined boundaries where no use is allowed at all. This area then gets preserved and able to carry out its ecological functions. Thus, it can serve as a natural water reservoir, habitat for wildlife, erosion prevention, flood control, carbon storage, oxygen production, buffer against storms, maintenance of soil fertility, among others.
A game preserve is another example. People are prohibited from hunting game in that region to allow a species with a depleted population to recover. Hence, it is a ‘no take’ zone in view of making it available in the future.
To synthesize everything, preservation, therefore, can be defined as a natural resource management approach advocating non-utilization of a natural resource. This approach views a sustainable flow of benefits that can be enjoyed at present or protecting a resource for future use.
Definition of Conservation
Using Merriam-Webster’s definition, conservation means ‘to keep (something) from being damaged or destroyed.’ This word sounds similar to preservation. But another definition says, ‘to use (something) carefully to prevent loss or waste.’ The latter appears to be a better definition that distinguishes conservation from preservation.
In other words, conservation does not only aim to keep natural resources from being damaged or exploited but to use them optimally. There is the incorporation of the ‘wise use’ policy in this natural resource management approach. Benefits accrues while resources stay the same. Resources are used sparingly or wisely so that they are still available in the future. Conservation emphasizes the use of the natural resource.
The resources subject to conservation may be renewable or non-renewable. For example, you can say ‘conserve water’ or ‘conserve oil or fuel’ but you do not say ‘preserve water’ or ‘preserve oil or fuel.’ Water is a renewable resource whereas oil or fuel is non-renewable or exhausted with use. The use of the latter resource relates to pollution.
Another good definition of Merriam-Webster is that conservation is ‘planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.’ This definition adequately captures the role of man as a resource manager. This definition suggests that conservation is a broader concept compared to preservation. A planned management can incorporate preservation, protection, wise use, maintenance and reduction of the ill effects or negative externalities associated with its use.
Conservation, therefore, can be succinctly defined as a natural resource management approach that seeks to attain sustainable or prolonged use of natural resources with minimal environmental impact.
The two approaches described reflects philosophies in natural resource management. While there may be a difference in terms of the approach, the result is to achieve a sustained enjoyment of benefits.
© 2013 September 21 P. A. Regoniel