Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Making a mountain into a starbase.
"Biologists who don't speak out on biological issues become the passive accepters of the loss of biodiversity ..."
Peter Warshall, an adjunct scientist at the University of Arizona, directed research for an environmental impact statement on Mount Graham in 1986. He has become the faculty's most outspoken critic of the project, and is president of the 350-member Scientists for the Preservation of Mount Graham. He says any conservation biologist should not "choose to be a wuss' and should instead act as "part lawyer, part teacher, part biogladiator ..."
"I really feel the academics need to be tweaked a little bit. Fear of job loss or stagnation is what keeps the majority of biologists from becoming biogladiators. Taking an active role in the politics of biology is not part of a lot of scientists' personalities. But biologists who don't speak out on biological issues become the passive accepters of the loss of biodiversity ... Even if you have an Endangered Species Act, it doesn't help if you have (agency biologists) unwilling to implement it.
"You can't oppose the University of Arizona and get funding. In 1989, pressure from the university and the Forest Service led to the cancellation of my fieldwork on habitat quality on Mount Graham ...
"When pushed, the university tends to go macho rather than seek out ways to do conflict resolution. Their model is sports; it's one of the biggest sports universities around. They tend to think there's always two sides, and that only one side can win. 'You win, we lose, you've got to fight to the end.' There's no understanding that there may be six sides, not two ...
"They took the low road when they could have taken the high road ... Most academics use a standard of knowledge, not the (political) ability to exempt a project from all federal law, in judging why people should do things."