Saturday, March 9, 2013

Ecological Restoration: scientific, philosophical, and sustainability perspectives: a Chicago Wilderness view

The ecological restoration of degraded lands is older as a practice than the disciplines that study it, and that seek to advise its proponents.  These disciplines, however, have an opportunity to refine the work, and to reflect upon the significance of its outcomes in much the way that intellectual engagement with any praxis – agriculture, hunting, or even art, for example – can augment practice.

The ecological evaluation of restorative management identifies best practices, measures progress towards stated targets, and elucidates basic ecological processes from ongoing manipulations of managed landscapes. The social sciences have clarified the way in which restoration emerges from the institutional governing structures, and sought to identify the processes whereby management is either agreed upon, or alternatively provokes, opposition in communities adjacent to restoration sites.  Philosophical reflection on restoration sharpens our understanding of key conceptual terms, like nature, revises our considerations of ethical obligations, and can help restorationists appreciate the full spectrum of values emerging from attempts to “make nature whole.”  The way in which restoration influences well-being and “topophilia” – an abiding love of place – is of interest to environmental psychologists.  Restoration may provide a profound way of getting to know a new place, and awaking practitioners from what I call “toponesia”, a forgetfulness of place.

Using examples from the Chicago Wilderness region I briefly inspect each of these perspectives: restoration from a natural and social sciences, environmental philosophy, and as a sustainability endeavor that can potentially evoke a love for and allegiance to the places that we live.

Draft abstract for panel on "Interdisciplinary Insights for Guiding Future Ecological Restoration and 
Sustainability Efforts." For SER Midwest Great Lakes Chapter Meeting next month (see here)

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