When it comes to the topic of ecological restoration, some things are clear (nature cannot be restored exactly as it was) while many questions and concerns remain. Should restoration be attempted, knowing it will only create a “fake” nature, and, if so, how should it be done and for what purpose? This week’s reading have shed some light on the topic and presented some differing opinions. Turner and Jordan advocate human influence on nature and the (re)creation of ecosystems as a way for humans to find their place in, and become a part of, nature, while Katz dismisses restoration efforts as insulting forgeries (though eventually he concedes that restoration is appropriate in degraded areas, making his whole essay a bit convoluted). Mills admires the dedication of those attempting to repair salmon habitats in the Northwest and the cooperation among factions it has fostered, while Holloway uses the Everglades to demonstrate how difficult, time consuming, and costly restoration efforts can be. I agree with bits and pieces from all the authors, though not completely with any.
In today’s world, little to no “untouched” nature remains, so preservation is often no longer a realistic goal. Therefore, it seems that humans must take a stake in and play a role in the development of nature. Nature is not some static work of art as Katz implies; it is ever-changing, whether humans are around or not. We cannot freeze it in some ideal form even if we wanted to. We do, however, have a massive influence on how nature changes over time. I see restoration as a valuable tool that can have positive impacts, but one that must be used thoughtfully, carefully, and with the correct motives. Therefore, it must be considered on a case to case basis and mostly as a last resort. By naively assuming we can recreate nature on a whim, we give ourselves too much credit and, hence, endanger the intricate systems nature has spent millions of years creating. I am opposed to the idea of “balancing” destruction with restoration by enabling (for example) pristine wetlands to be drained and developed as long as some other damaged wetland area is restored, because it falsely assumes the restored area to have the same ecological value as the undisturbed land. In this regard, I agree with Katz that the two are not equal and should not be equally valued.
Remediation should be an effort to create a net gain in natural systems (from the current human-induced state) rather than to validate new degradation. We should try to clean up our mistakes, but it does no real good if we continue to make the same mistakes again, with the assumption we will “undo” them later when it is more convenient. In this sense, I think Turner is overoptimistic about humans’ role in creating nature, because he assumes we must garden everything all the time, and I think the goal of restoration should be to create systems that are able to function and sustain themselves over time with minimal human interference. Nature does not need humans to survive, but humans certainly need nature. Therefore we should protect what natural systems are still intact and do our best to repair those areas that have been severely damaged by human development. This will require a sweeping shift in human priorities from short-term economic gains to long-term ecological health. Money is ephemeral and irrelevant when compared to the life-giving services healthy natural systems provide to humans and all other species. Fixing damaged ecosystems is important, but fixing the social, political, and economic systems that motivated the degradation in the first place is far more important and holds the real key to future health and harmony on Earth.