SYMP 17-2 - The ties that bind: What anchors ecological intervention in the Anthropocene?

Thursday, August 11, 2016: 8:30 AM
Grand Floridian Blrm C, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Eric Higgs, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada

What is responsible intervention in ecosystems undergoing rapid change? Essential ecosystems are being dramatically and rapidly altered by land conversion, climate change, human-induced shifts in nutrient flows and entrenchment of non-native species. These monumental ecological changes will in turn affect the provision of services these ecosystems provide for people, and how people interact recreationally, spiritually and in other ways with “new” ecosystems outside of their historical experience. Traditional practices such as ecological restoration have been anchored to concepts such as historical fidelity and ecological integrity. These concepts provided guidance and insight into appropriate intervention, and limited the drift of restoration into actions with purely human interests. As ecosystems move outside historical state-space boundaries into novel dynamics, environmental scholars and practitioners, as well as policy specialists, planners and managers, need to understand how these “new natures” sustain us, how they challenge us, and how we can steward them while respecting both people and nature. 


First, I argue that the specific ties that bind ecological intervention to responsible action are being frayed and broken: authority of historical reference; consistency of approach; restoration of native species; intrinsic worth of nature, duties to wilderness; and unmediated experience. Second, I propose strategies for each of these ties that reflect an emerging framework for the whole landscape, including the idea of ecological bricolage that creates constructive outcomes from a diverse range of approaches. Collectively, these strategies help to answer the question of responsible intervention.