The language of nature matters: we need a more public ecology

Hull, R.B. & D.P. Robertson, 2000, The language of nature matters: we need a more public ecology, in: Gobster, P.H. & R. B. Hull, ‘Restoring nature’, Island Press, Washington

  • Author : Hull, R.B. & D.P. Robertson
  • Year : 2000
  • Published in Book : Restoring nature
  • Pages : 97-118
  • Abstract in English : Environmental decision making is a tournament of competing conservation agendas in which some values and beliefs are held up and exalted, other are dismissed and ignored, and still others are left implicit and unnoticed, Stakeholders compete in the tournament to advance their value system through the science they advocate or practice, through the definitions of environmental quality they use or study, and through management goals they champion. It is the contention that participants who hope to compete successfully in this tournament of values should understand the rule of the game, which includes understanding the language used to discuss and describe nature. In particular, participants should understand that the terms used to describe ecological conditions are value-laden. The language we use to describe nature matters. The problem is that the language of nature is often neither precise nor value neutral. There exist multiple, conflicting imprecise, and biased definitions of terms used to discuss. What nature is and what it should be are questions that touch the heart of ecological based on decision makers ideas (and ideals) of what natural, healthy, or otherwise best for nature. Yet there is no simple answer to the question “What is natural” of What is ecologically best for nature? Ecological theory suggests that many alternative environmental conditions are equally possible . equally natural healthy for any given place at any given point in time. There exists no ecological optimum or naturally best environmental condition that can serve as an objective, unequivocal goal for ecological restoration projects. The first purpose of this chapter is to examine some of the values implicit in three terms that have currency in both scientific and political venues: naturalness, health, and integrity. Environments that have more of these qualities are presumed to have more value than environments with less of these qualities. Hence, these descriptive terms also serve as prescriptive goals for environmental management. The challenge to all stakeholders is to help construct an environmental knowledge that is meaning full within environmental policy. Hence the second purpose of this chapter is to discuss dimensions of environmental knowledge that may facilitate negotiation of ecological restoration goals that are socially acceptable, ecological meaningful, and managerially relevant. This more public ecology is the responsibility of all stakeholders, and its goal is to produce a more effective environmental knowledge.
  • Comments/Notes : KEYWORDS: urban forestry, nature restoration, naturalness, environmental health, integrity, language, participation.