The land ethic, restoration, and me

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Diane Larson

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Ethicists and conservation biologists have long debated the role of humans in nature.  One extreme holds humans as outside the natural realm while the other extreme considers humans one with nature. In this talk, I argue for the latter, simply because I see no juncture during evolutionary history when humans made a jump from being part of their ecosystems to being an outsider that merely uses ecosystem services (though the dawn of agriculture is a possibility). Restorationists especially must grapple with the question of if and/or how to take humans into account when locating and designing ecological restorations. Aldo Leopold’s essay, “The Land Ethic”, provides direction through its emphasis on the interdependence of biotic (including human) and abiotic actors, but leaves unanswered the larger question of landscape: where is ecological restoration appropriate? Some argue that it is a waste of resources to restore parcels that are too small to be self-sustaining, but this excludes human participation and ignores the societal role in sustainability.  Also sacrificed in this view is the reciprocal value of restored areas to humans. City planners have long understood the value of trees and parks in urban landscapes and such refuges from agricultural pesticides may also prove valuable for imperiled insects, such as the US endangered Rusty Patched Bumblebee. Increasing the opportunity for interactions between humans and other aspects of nature, including making humans active participants in restoration within their communities, can produce feedbacks that heighten appreciation for our shared environment.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration