Paper short abstract:
This paper discusses the ethical, moral and affective topography of saving species science, and how scientists, decision-makers and natural resource managers navigate panic and problem-solving on the precipice of the Earth's sixth mass extinction event.
Paper long abstract:
If climate change is the familiar refrain of the Anthropocene, biodiversity loss is its background hum. In debates on environmental policy in Australia in particular, the unfolding of human-induced extinction is a largely specialised concern of ecologists, botanists and under-resourced biodiversity managers. Within these enterprises, panic at mass extinction, and its emotional resonances in awe, grief and fear, is largely channelled through practical problem-solving and scientific advocacy. Yet scientists working in these spaces are also acutely aware that extinction is a human-induced challenge requiring human solutions. This talk therefore explores how scientists experience extinction, with a focus on how they imagine public interest or disinterest in conservation, how social knowledge of the problem (and its solutions) is made through science, and the kinds of social solutions sought by scientists to the social crisis implied in biodiversity loss. It examines the affective implications for scientists as they document the demise of their species and come up against limitations in resources, political will or techno-scientific solutions. It thus offers a gentle meditation of the limits of science in the face of human-induced slow disaster, and the tangled webs of action, inaction, thought, argument, paralysis and motion this gives rise to, mediated through the panic entailed in a human-induced decimation of the multispecies diversity that makes us who we are.