Skip to main content


Front. Conserv. Sci.
Sec. Human-Wildlife Interactions
doi: 10.3389/fcosc.2022.982129

Responding to the Continued Elusiveness of National-scale Environmental Policy Shifts: Reconsidering limits on the sciences' capacity to model and influence political factors blocking conservation outcomes

  • 1gaia morgan group, United States
Provisionally accepted:
The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon.

Despite steadily growing in technical sophistication and disseminated volume through the late twentieth and into the early twenty-first century, scientific findings pointing to our urgent, still-worsening environmental crises have in general not had any noticeable large-scale impact on policies at the national level. As part of continuing to try to drive national-scale policy changes to better protect biodiversity and achieve other conservation outcomes, conservation scientists and social scientists have recently begun attempting to analyze and model various aspects of the political sphere as part of their models of environmental changes. Even beyond various problems inherent to such meta-modeling, these new meta-disciplinary approaches seem unlikely to improve the sciences’ theoretical or actual grasp upon or influence over state power. The modern nation-state exists in political, experiential, lived reality, not a closed or controllable model; it exists moreover as wholly prior to and meaningfully outside, even unidirectionally influential over, the entire practice of modern conservation science itself (as well as every modern science). The state fosters and supports the scientific establishment for its own ends. How states might drastically shift these ends themselves is extremely difficult to predict or control. In the past what shifts have occurred seem to have been driven by ethical and moral arguments and considerations (whether positive or negative), arbitrated via the use (or implicit use) of force by either the state or external powers. One existing state apparatus, the intelligence structure, may be flexible enough to turn the science on the crisis into something living and politically relevant, giving it the chance to more deeply impact the realm of power. Intelligence (an ancient apparatus of power which predates the modern nation-state) seems to occupy an exceptional place within the largely subjective landscape of power, where some “bad news” which reflects a more objective logic may be tolerated, brought into the fold, and listened to for strategic reasons. Better and more objective intelligence on the environment could also nudge governments toward fostering more public discourse and debate on the ethics of our relationship with and use of the natural world, a debate which is currently noticeably, crucially missing.

Keywords: Environmental crisis, Science-policy interface, Limits of science, environmental intelligence, Biodiversity collapse

Received:30 Jun 2022; Accepted: 26 Sep 2022.

Copyright: © 2022 Snow. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Katherine Snow, gaia morgan group, Westport, United States