The exploration of natural environments with very low levels of human activity raises questions concerning the "ethics of virginity", as Axel Kahn eloquently explained at the symposium in March 2020 "Together, protecting marine biodiversity: know when to act". The exploration of previously unknown and/or moderately anthropised environments can lead to their exploitation, which is rarely without consequence for biodiversity and local populations.
As a specific case of the "ethics of the common good", this subject is of great interest to INRAE, Cirad, Ifremer and IRD. For environments such as the deep seabed, it is at the centre of requests for a moratorium on the exploitation, or even exploration, of these ecosystems, as well as on negotiations for the protection of biodiversity in the high seas. It also allows us to focus on two other environments with minor human activities: tropical forests and "de-anthropised" European regions. Finally, approached from an anthropological perspective, this referral can be extended to issues at the human-nature interface, in particular for certain human populations that still live isolated from the rest of the world within primary tropical forests and, more generally, for indigenous people, or "first nations", who have a special relationship with their land and the natural spaces which they live in.
What are the responsibilities of the research organisations contributing to the knowledge of these ecosystems for their preservation and their future in terms of exploring moderately anthropised ecosystems? How can we implement and apply the "principle of deferred knowledge" that Axel Kahn defined in March 2020 as an "extraordinary care that respects what deserves to be known, but which we have not yet protected enough to guarantee that knowledge will not lead to deterioration without knowing how to stop it effectively and without adequate collective appropriation"?
Illustration : During a dive on the Eastern Pacific Ridge, giant worms Riftia pachyptila and Bythogrea crabs, usually living around hydrothermal vents. | Photo credit : Ifremer