Imagining Restoration Ecology: Ecological devastation and restoration in The Lord of the Rings

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Kenton L. Sena

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J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has captured the attention of readers for generations. To date, much of Tolkien scholarship has focused on Tolkien’s participation in literary and linguistic traditions; however, ecocritical perspectives on Tolkien’s work represent another important area of scholarship. Tolkien’s environmental vision in many ways was ahead of his time, anticipating the dramatic effects of modernism (and its associated industrialization) on the forests and grasslands of his beloved English countryside. Embedded within his prodigious imagination of the ecosystems of Middle-earth, Tolkien powerfully imagines the power of humans both to destroy (e.g., through waging war, seeking power, and advancing industrialization) and to care for ecosystems. Tolkien’s environmental spaces thus present a perspective on ecological devastation and restoration in Middle-earth, with opportunities to re-imagine ecological restoration in the “real world.” This paper explores examples of ecological devastation and restoration in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, then highlights important implications for framing ecological restoration in practice. Overall, Tolkien’s work presents an opportunity for practitioners of restoration ecology to contextualize ecological devastation and restoration in a broader literary and imaginative framework, providing new pathways for diverse community members to connect with and, eventually, participate in ecological restoration in their own communities.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program