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Environmental Values

Future Directions for Conservation

Jozef Keulartz

Environmental Values 25 (2016): 385–407. doi: 10.3197/096327116X14661540759115

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The use of target baselines or reference states for conservation and restoration has become increasingly problematic and impractical, due to rapid environmental change, the paradigm shift in ecology from a static to a dynamic view of nature, and growing awareness of the role of cultural traditions in the reconstruction of baselines. The various responses to this crisis of baselines will to a significant extent determine the future direction of nature conservation. Although some hold onto traditional baselines and others try to refine or redefine the reference concept, the debate is currently dominated by two widely diverging reactions to the crisis: while the so-called ‘new environmentalists’ or ‘new conservationists’ declare the whole baseline notion obsolete, replacing a backward-looking approach with a forward-looking one, the ‘re-wilders’ push the baseline back to a deeper, more distant past. This article provides a critical assessment of the debate on these conversation options, with a special focus on the differences between Old World and New World perspectives.


Conservation baselines, Old World and New World perspectives, novel ecosystems, anthropocene, rewilding

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Letting Nature Take its Course. Simon P. James

Moral-Material Ontologies of Nature Conservation: Exploring the Discord Between Ecological Restoration and Novel Ecosystems.Mick Lennon

The Many Meanings of Rewilding: An Introduction and the Case for a Broad Conceptualisation. Andrea R. Gammon

Restoring or Re-storying the Lake District: Applying Responsive Cohesion to a Current Problem Situation. Isis Brook

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