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Use and Abuse

Use and Abuse

(p.46) Two Use and Abuse
Our Oldest Task
Eric T. Freyfogle
University of Chicago Press

The difficulty we have distinguishing the legitimate use of nature from the abuse of it is illustrated by conflicting claims that it is wrong or immoral to use riparian corridors in ways that kill mussels in rivers. We can resolve such disputes only by constructing an overall normative standard for evaluating human changes to nature, preferably by taking into account all relevant normative factors. The chapter critiques the popular notion of sustainability, explaining its vagueness and incompleteness and arguing that our embrace of it illustrates our failure to engage meaningfully this foundational norm-creating task. This failure appears also when environmental activists unthinkingly equate all human change to a landscape with land abuse and when speaking of restoration, which is best understood not as goal-directed but simply as an impulse to undo certain human-caused landscape changes. Adding complexity and confusion is the reality of nature’s dynamism and the much-discussed changes in the understandings of ecologists over the past half century and more. The chapter questions whether a true paradigm shift occurred in ecology, or whether the changes are more due to simple shifts in temporal perspectives and in whether depictions of ecological communities should or should not include ecological disturbances.

Keywords:   ecological communities, ecological restoration, ecology, nature's dynamism, paradigm shift, sustainability

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