Constructing nature as constructing science: expertise, activist science, and public conflict in the Chicago wilderness

Helford, R.M., 2000, Constructing nature as constructing science: expertise, activist science, and public conflict in the Chicago wilderness, in: Gobster, P.H. & R. B. Hull, ‘Restoring nature’, Island Press, Washington

  • Author : Helford, R.M.
  • Year : 2000
  • Published in Book : Restoring nature
  • Pages : 119-142
  • Abstract in English : The nature of conflict about nature restoration in Chicago is examined from a sociological perspective, and expertise and public understanding is seen of science as critical elements underlying the issues being debated. The author shows how expertise is used as a dividing line to present restoration as expert knowers of nature and exclude those with other forms of knowledge and experience from the decision-making process. The conflict is exacerbated because restorationists also cast themselves a grassroots activists whose campaign to save nature is value-laden and emotional. How restorationists and critics differentially see these dual messages of value-laden activism is the heart of the controversy. The author has sought to demonstrate that the work of ecological restoration is political. Restoration gains broader political meaning in its reception by the larger public. The example of the Chicago restoration controversy clearly demonstrates that the response of land-management authorities to such public definitions, even ones they disagree with or don’t understand, further defines the politics of the conservation practices. The social and political meaning of restoration is not only defined by the changes in the floral composition of a particular site but also by the ways in which restoration practices establish the place of restorationists and their knowledge in relation to the public. Restoration activities carry with them assumption about the best way to see an d interact with the landscape. These assumptions privilege certain understanding of nature and draw boundaries that exclude many of the lay public’s experiences as invalid, inappropriate for contributing to a dialogue on the management and care of the public preserves. The work of ecological restoration should be more than just the interpretation of nature’s needs; it must be the discernment of the needs of nature’s publics as well.
  • Comments/Notes : KEYWORDS: urban forestry, nature restoration, naturalness, environmental health, integrity, language, participation