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The naturalness versus wilderness debate: ambiguity, inconsistency and unattainable objectivity

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Ridder, BP (2007) The naturalness versus wilderness debate: ambiguity, inconsistency and unattainable objectivity. Restoration Ecology, 15 (1). pp. 8-12. ISSN 1061-2971

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Abstract

The naturalness versus wildness debate has gained some
prominence in recent years and has seen considerable discussion of issues akin to those that have generated such
tension between restorationists and preservationists. This
debate is hampered by the terms in which it is framed. The
primary meaning of both naturalness and wildness relates
to the description of processes or behavior that lack human
intervention. This enables human activities and artifacts
(such as childbirth, food, and medicine) to be rated according to naturalness. However, when the terms are applied to the description of species and ecosystems, process-oriented definitions are forgotten in favor of historical benchmarks. This can result in serious inconsistencies between those who adhere to the different interpretations, exemplified by the tendency of conservationists to view ‘‘naturalness’’
as being consistent with human intervention in natural
processes. The choice of one or the other interpretation is
motivated by whether one prioritizes the conservation of
biodiversity or minimizing human intervention. There have
been claims that naturalness provides an objective measure
for assessing biodiversity and calls for value-laden terms to be avoided. Yet, the values are central, and the best that can be hoped for is that the debate be framed using terms that are more indicative of these underlying values. It is suggested here that naturalness versus wildness be recast as ‘‘protecting biodiversity’’ versus ‘‘respect for nature’s autonomy.’’ Not only do these terms avoid the ambiguities of their forebears but they also expose the debate as the result of slight shifts in value priorities rather than fundamentally opposed worldviews.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: biodiversity, naturalness, preservation, restoration, values, wildness.
Journal or Publication Title: Restoration Ecology
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing, Inc
Page Range: pp. 8-12
ISSN: 1061-2971
Identification Number - DOI: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2006.00184.x
Additional Information:

The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com

Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2008 14:35
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 03:35
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