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Approaches to Conserving Vulnerable Wildlife in China: Does the Colour of Cat Matter - if it Catches Mice?


  • Richard B. Harris


China's environmental problems are well known, but recently its record in the area of wildlife conservation, particularly with regard to endangered species, has come under scrutiny. Environmental values colour how we in the West view both China's past experience with wildlife and what strategies it should adopt to foster better conservation. Chinese have long taken a utilitarian view of wildlife, valuing species primarily as resources for man's use and only secondarily for other reasons. However, China has not developed institutions capable of sustaining the desired use of wildlife in the face of ever-growing demands. I suggest that Western criticisms of Chinese utilitarian attitudes are inappropriate, ineffective, and possibly counter-productive: deep-seated cultural mores change slowly. Instead, Westerners concerned with the fate of China's wildlife should assist the development of systems that act to channel demand for wildlife's material benefits toward investment in conservation. Such systems will likely require devolution of considerable control to local levels, strengthening incentives to favour long- over short-term benefits, and - notwithstanding common Western attitudes - substantial consumptive use of wildlife.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Harris, 1996. "Approaches to Conserving Vulnerable Wildlife in China: Does the Colour of Cat Matter - if it Catches Mice?," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 5(4), pages 303-334, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev5:ev515

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Herman E. Daly, 1972. "In Defense of a Steady-State Economy," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 54(5), pages 945-954.
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    3. Viviana Asara & Emanuele Profumi & Giorgos Kallis, 2013. "Degrowth, Democracy and Autonomy," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 22(2), pages 217-239, April.
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    7. Maddison, Angus, 2007. "Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199227204.
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    9. repec:env:journl:ev25:editev253 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Scott Cameron Lougheed & Myra J. Hird & Kerry R. Rowe, 2016. "Governing Household Waste Management: An Empirical Analysis and Critique," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(3), pages 287-308, June.
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    1. repec:eee:touman:v:33:y:2012:i:4:p:988-998 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    China; consumptive use; incentives; utilitarianism; wildlife conservation;

    JEL classification:

    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth


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