What should nature look like? Can we ever really turn back the clock? These debates have real consequences for the land, and for the values people live by. Nature's Restoration poses intriguing questions about how people can live on the earth without destroying its natural systems. Through detailed reporting and numerous interviews, Friederici's lyrical writing puts us on the front lines of restoration to learn how this growing movement shapes places and inspires people.
Nature's Restoration relates the passion of ordinary citizens who are changing the way we think about nature. They are restoring animal habitats, reintroducing native plants, bringing back lost species, and gaining a greater intimacy with the natural world. On a planet suffering from serious ecological problems, the growing restoration movement is a refreshing attempt to set things right. People and Places on the Front Lines of Conservation. Peter Friederici. Pub Date:. April Even the United States Endangered Species Act, an uncompromising conservation law, has a proviso for permissible elimination of a certain number of individuals upon agreement to mitigate the damage.
This search for mitigation often favored short-term fixes rather than long-term visions These market-inspired strategies for conservation reinforce the anthropocentric view of nature by narrowing our relationship with nature and natural entities to its strictly economic aspects. Translating natural assets and services into a currency compatible with the exchange of commodities to save them e. Turning natural assets into fragments liable to counting and instrumental use reduces social—natural relations to market transactions. This reduction can lead to neglect of natural features that cannot be monetarily valued, a risk compounded by severe asymmetry in the valuation exercise.
How is one to assign monetary value to biodiversity of tropical forests e. This economic valuation implicitly makes all species fungible. So long as they provide the narrowly defined set of services, it does not matter which species is maintained. Neither does it matter whether a technology provides the service as well as a species does. Reconciling economy and conservation will require clarifying the relative positions of the economy, society, and environment.
Key Findings for the Planet
Conservation has often been placed at the intersection of three rings representing the economy, society, and the environment A nested model, emphasizing that there is no economy without society and that all human societies critically depend on their natural environment 67 , places the economy inside society and the environment as embracing society and economy. It contrasts with the current primacy of the economy, in which environments and often societies are considered as mere resources. It emphasizes that economy depends on society and its environment It acknowledges ecological limits and could help conservation science redefine its interactions with economy and technology.
Early on, its concerns about species extinctions involved using innovations in captive propagation to buy time for threatened species, often at a cost in fitness e. The broadening of its focus to faunal changes, invasions, and restoration increasingly emphasized hands-on approaches with some remarkable successes The local or specific emphasis still lacked the generality needed to face the systemic context of erosion of biodiversity and ecological processes.
When hands-on approaches expanded from species to ecosystems, they rested on contrasted attitudes. Restoration ecologists, in their efforts to restore ecological properties in degraded ecosystems, personify another attitude. Recognizing that all ecosystems are constantly changing to a varying extent, they attempt to realign an ecosystem's ongoing development with its historic trajectory so that it evolves in response to future conditions Some discrepancy will exist, but the goal is to assist an ecosystem that has evolved over millennia to continue on its path.
Ecological engineering 75 can be defined as an attempt to find a more generic approach that aims to cure rather than treat symptoms. The purpose is to shift from the alliance of engineering and hard sciences that shaped the human-built part of the world to an alliance with ecology to restore natural functions even in systems most influenced by humans. Centered on manipulating natural or artificial ecosystems by integrating applied and theoretical ecology, its ambition remains, despite minor interactions with ecological economics 75 , restricted to injecting ecological thinking into the way growth-based societies shape the world.
The same is true for ecological intensification, a recent development relying on technologies to circumvent ecological limits to land productivity [e. All these avenues address the ecological crisis by relying on technology-based hands-on actions.
Nature’s Restoration: Peopel and Places on the Front Lines of Conservation
These risks are compounded by lack of a clearly stated vision by conservation science that would emphasize and serve the need for a change in perspective for society at large and the need to acknowledge limits imposed by the biosphere. In such a context, mitigation or remediation could be revisited as ways to provide additional opportunities for nature rather than simply to compensate for local impacts within an inappropriate framework. Many conservation biologists feel a need to overcome the uneasiness with which, despite their efforts and successes, they witness a continuing erosion of biodiversity and natural processes 78 , It remains to be seen how many conservation scientists share this view that a choice must be made between human well-being and care for wild nature.
Second, the claim that traditional conservation science is focused on unpopulated wilderness also deserves scrutiny.
Few question that, almost from the outset, humans, as a species, were significant actors in ecosystems they occupied 80 , It also caused species loss in many times and places The diversification fueled by domestication eroded during the second half of the twentieth century in the wake of the agricultural revolution 84 , following the same trend of erosion observed in wild species associated with croplands Both issues have become a focus of conservation science. But using the fact that humans have always been embedded in ecosystems as an argument to reject the concept of wild, autonomous nature overlooks the dramatic increase in the magnitude and intensity of human impacts on the biosphere.
To use a metaphor, the fact that humans have always fought each other with various hand weapons does not render futile concerns about consequences of a nuclear war. Scale matters. Improving the effectiveness of protected areas in representing species diversity must remain central to conservation science How to achieve that has been explored in farmed systems, theoretically and practically 89 , and should be part of the empirical research agenda A century of ecological research has revealed a plethora of unsuspected interdependencies, linking birds, reptiles, and tallgrass prairie plants to the presence of large bison herds 91 or the growth of conifer forests to the obligatory roles of myriad ectomycorrhizal fungi Parsing complex ecological communities, particularly the microbial members and linkages between aboveground and belowground components, is one of the leading edges of modern ecology 93 , supercharged by the advent of molecular techniques that allow detection of previously inaccessible species and relationships.
Such an approach will be centered neither on protecting nature from people, nor on protecting nature for people. Its goal will be to protect nature with people It is humans who overwhelmingly jeopardize the future of species and ecosystems, but it is also humans who are engaged in trying to secure this future.
Although they rightly argue that economic actors willing to invest in more environmentally sensitive attitudes exist, such actors will remain exceptions in an economy where core principles rest on growth and consumption and in which desire to acquire is assumed to be the driver of individual behaviors. If indeed win—win options may often be illusory and hard choices necessary to reconcile biodiversity conservation and human well-being 96 , making such choices without a compatible societal value system will lead to a dead end.
But this attitude often dealt with individual entities rather than with their complex webs of relationships leading to collective entities—populations, communities, ecosystems, societies—essential to the well-being of the individual entities, including humans It is also fair to recognize initial rejection by some conservation scientists of anything associated with humans.
Conservation science, especially in North America 98 , has tended to focus on what it considers the natural part of the world and to neglect, or even to consider as inimical to its goals, its more artificial parts 99 , This attitude has changed during the late 20th century as conservation science became increasingly interested in ecological functions of human-shaped entities such as agricultural land or urban areas, recognizing the unprecedented ability of the human species to change the world to the point of having blurred a dichotomy between the natural and an artificial shaped by us and for us.
This ability has become a geological force that propelled the earth into a new era, the Anthropocene If humans are this force affecting all facets of the biosphere, the current crisis can be resolved only by acting on the principles governing our actions. The challenge for conservation scientists is thus to act on a day-to-day basis under the current context but, at the same time, make clear that the long-term prospects for conservation are dismal without a radical transition in attitudes and processes that govern our interactions with the biosphere.
This transition should make respect for nature and its limits an integral part of our interaction with the world at all levels of action and decision making. A more sustainable value system is by no means an automatic turn of history. It is a major challenge, but there is no desirable alternative Today conservation science must adopt a vision of proactive conservation embracing all systems, driven or not by human activities.
This vision should focus on reconciling human needs with the capacity of the planet to sustain the diversity of life in the long term, recognizing that, in a world soon to host 10 billion humans, human attitudes are at the root of both the problem and its solution. In our opinion, this new value system should favor biodiversity and autonomous ecological processes as central within the agenda of human activities.
A key role of conservation science will then be finding ways to increase opportunities for biodiversity and natural processes in all contexts, from natural to seminatural and human-built ecosystems. The research on interdependencies and linkages described above supports this role, as does the research on the impacts and management of nonnative species in both largely natural ecosystems and anthropogenic ones This inclusive role of conservation would take the discipline out of its frequently defensive posture. These natural areas must remain essential to conserve biodiversity and to improve conditions in their surrounding matrix.
As outlined in the first section, the roots of the current crisis rest in our societal paradigm. A proper understanding of its mechanisms and key actors is outside the comfort zone of academics studying natural sciences and ecology. Although ecology can highlight the existence of limits to growth and the local or global consequences of ignoring them, social sciences are necessary to diagnose the societal mechanisms at work and forces that prevent changing them.
For Ostrom , no simple solution will make complex social—ecological systems sustainable. Her call for caution about the vanity of trying to resolve complex issues through simple solutions emphasizes the role conservation science in its broadest sense has to play in defining learning processes in both the natural and social sciences that help develop adaptive approaches and means to adjust solutions to problems This approach raises the question of its compatibility with the heteronomous worldview characteristic of the current economic paradigm based on several oversimplifications.
Much research on sustainability is focused at the local scale, paying little attention to broader scale factors of the external social, institutional, and physical environment: in particular, population and the market economy Addressing the current challenge will also require understanding the political history that led to the Anthropocene to promote a political treatment of the current crisis that includes an ethical commitment rooted in acknowledging environmental limits.
Another important factor to investigate is the history of the critical questioning of the environmental challenges posed by industrialization. Fressoz argues that critiques go back almost to the dawn of industrialization but were silenced by political and industrial elites.
The current perception of a progressive awakening of ecological awareness after World War II had more to do with the efficiency with which earlier critiques had been silenced than with an earlier lack of awareness An ethical commitment based on the rationality of ecological and human sciences may not suffice to extract us from the environmental crisis, but it is necessary.
Our relation to the world is shaped by our innate baggage in the form of ingrained behavior and its interaction with our cultural environment. Major shifts in attitudes have been achieved over time in human societies. Understanding what made them possible reaches beyond conservation science but will play a crucial role in the outcome. For most of our history, the planet seemed static compared with the rate of cultural changes. The great increase in human population and impacts in the last 60 y reversed this relationship.
The rapid changes imposed by humans on the planet seem to exceed the rate at which societies can change core attitudes, leading humans increasingly to perceive their planet as small and vulnerable Putting the reconciliation of biodiversity conservation and human-made nature proposed by Rosenzweig within a worldview based on respect for nature and for its biophysical limits would be a way to overcome the risk of devaluing the more natural areas.
We thank students and colleagues who provided feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript and the editorial team of LaRevueDurable for providing valuable reading material. We thank Dale Jamieson for pertinent suggestions and Ilkka Hanski deceased May 10, for insightful comments and a wealth of relevant research. This contribution is part of the special series of Inaugural Articles by members of the National Academy of Sciences elected in Author contributions: J.
NOTE: We only request your email address so that the person you are recommending the page to knows that you wanted them to see it, and that it is not junk mail. We do not capture any email address. Skip to main content. The need to respect nature and its limits challenges society and conservation science Jean-Louis Martin , Virginie Maris , and Daniel S. Jean-Louis Martin. Abstract Increasing human population interacts with local and global environments to deplete biodiversity and resources humans depend on, thus challenging societal values centered on growth and relying on technology to mitigate environmental stress.
Objections to an Economics of Growth.
Attempting to Green the Economy. Economics and Human Development. From Heteronomy to Autonomy. Perceptions and Foundations for an Alternative Framework. The Nature of Respect, and Respect for Nature. Ethical Challenges and Obstacles to Change. Concluding Remarks: Expanding Our Ambition in a Shrinking World For most of our history, the planet seemed static compared with the rate of cultural changes.