This week I am focusing my discussion piece on ecological restoration and new environmentalism. The two essays by William Jordan III and Frederick Turner both center on restoration and how to bring humans back into nature. “Sunflower Forest” Ecological Restoration as the Basis for a New Environmental Paradigm by Jordan begins his essay discussing models for recreating a healthy relationship between nature and humans. He offers the idea of gardening as a way to create a healthy and important bond between the two. Jordan and Turner have developed the process of ecosystem construction as an option to provide healthy interaction between humans and nature, and this process states that we can best understand ecosystems by attempting to reconstruct them. Thus, by reconstruction and restoration, humans can better understand ecosystems and natural processes. The rest of Jordan’s article explores how ecological restoration can create a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship between humans nature that we have seemed to lose. Turner’s essay is related but unique from Jordan’s. Turner explores the controversies surrounding restoration and how some environmentalists can see it as faking nature and attempting to reinstate human control over nature. However, Turner ventures into moral issues surrounding restoration and whether nature itself is the master constructor. The article ends with an interesting voyage into life on other planets and how that should affect our way of thinking.
I enjoyed the connection between the two articles as Jordan begins his piece by introducing the reader to Fred Turner and their collaboration. I myself have felt conflicted in the past couple years of studying environmental science as to what our place is in nature and whether we should do more to become a part of it or whether it is best to leave nature to itself. Jordan argues that we need to become a necessary and indispensable part of nature in which we care for and have beneficial effects on it. He continues to back this up by stating that it is impossible to have zero impact on the environment and thus we will never be able to remove ourselves completely from nature. He even makes the claim that “in the long run the best natural areas…will not be those that have simply been protected from human influences…but those that have been in some measure restored through a process that recognizes human influences and then effectively compensates for them.” This makes sense when presented by Jordan but turns traditional environmentalism on its head. Jordan uses the example of prairie burning as a way that restoration is helping natural areas.
Turner takes these issues a step further by asking, “is the restored prairie a fake?” Can you restore an ecosystem and continue to consider it completely natural? I do not believe anyone has an answer to that question yet, not even Turner or Jordan. I agree with many of the tenants of restoration but it becomes complicated when deciding whether these restoration projects are natural, or fake. However, Turner makes an interesting claim when explaining how nature continually replicates and creates “fakes” of its original system. No ecosystem is static; they are continually changing and adapting. So who is to say that an ecosystem restored by humans is less natural than an ecosystem that has changed just as drastically through sexual reproduction of plants and impacts from animals. The article really astounded me when it ended with a discussion on extraterrestrial life and claiming that humans on Earth are currently alone in the universe and this leaves us with a lot of responsibility. We must leave this Earth as a place inhabitable by humans or else we leave the universe to be devoid of life until some far distant day when other forms of life have evolved into being.