The Language of Conservation Project


About the Cluster

The Language of Conservation Project is a UC Santa Cruz, interdisciplinary initiative that seeks a radical change in how we talk and think about the value of life in all its diverse, natural forms.  The initiative is motivated by the suspicion of program directors, Claudio Campagna and Daniel Guevara, that the discourse that has dominated world-class conservation for the last three decades has undermined well-meaning efforts to promote biodiversity, because it operates primarily with the politically expedient language of sustainable development.  It is the language of economics applied to nature, which is a language incapable of comprehending the value of life, except for its value as an instrument to human development.  According to Campagna and Guevara, if we are to attain an authentically ethical relationship to nature, we must carefully consider what Wittgenstein says about philosophy in general: that it is a “battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language.” Conservation scientists, activists, philosophers and academics from a wide variety of disciplines, literary figures, students, and policy makers must work together to push through the current limits of our language and to articulate what Aldo Leopold called “values as yet uncaptured by language.”

It is our vision to establish a world-renowned version of our project at UCSC. We want UCSC to become the center for the discussion of how language affects nature conservation thinking. We need to create a constituency that will increase the scope and influence of our efforts.

UC Santa Cruz Faculty and Student Participants

Daniel Guevara, Chair and Associate Professor of Philosophy

Claudio Campagna, Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology;
Conservation Biologist, Wildlife Conservation Society

T.J. Demos, Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture and Director of the Center for
Creative Ecologies

Nathaniel Deutsch, Professor of History and Director of the Institute for Humanities

Janette Dinishak, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Jonnathan Ellis, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Public

James Estes, Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Member
of the US Academy of Sciences

Jennifer Gonzalez, Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture

Miriam Greenberg, Professor of Sociology

Sean Hunter, Doctoral Student in Philosophy

Henry Highton, Doctoral Student in Literature

Paul Koch, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Dean of Natural Sciences

Burney Le Boeuf, Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Travis Raymond, Doctoral Student in Philosophy

Kyle Robertson, Assistant Director of the Center for Public Philosophy

Paul Roth, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy

Laurie Palmer, Professor of Art

Warren Sack, Professor of Film and Digital Media

Beth Shapiro, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


May 4, 2018 – The Language of Conservation: In Search of “Values as Yet Uncaptured by Language”

April 14, 2017 – Ethics and Language of Conservation Colloquium

April 20, 2017 – Humanities Earth Day

April 29, 2017 – Alumni Weekend 2017: Ethics and the Language of Conservation

More Information

For more information visit the Center for Public Philosophy

Videos & Radio

What is Lost When a Species Goes Extinct?

Interview with Claudio Campagna talking about his journey as an animal behaviorist to researching the philosophy of the environmental movement.

Fast forward to minute 16:45 for the Language of Conservation presentation.