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Environmental Values

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Environmental Values

Ecological Historicity, Novelty and Functionality in the Anthropocene

Eric Desjardins, Justin Donhauser, Gillian Barker

Environmental Values 28 (2019): 275-303. doi: 10.3197/096327119X15519764179791

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While many recognise that rigid historical and compositional goals are inadequate in a world where climate and other global systems are undergoing unprecedented changes, others contend that promoting ecosystem services and functions encourages practices that can ultimately lower the bar of ecological management. These worries are foregrounded in discussions about 'novel ecosystems' (NEs), where some researchers and conservationists claim that NEs provide a license to trash nature as long as certain ecosystem services are provided. This criticism arises from what we call the 'anything goes problem' created by the release of historical conditions. After explaining the notion of NEs, we identify numerous substantive motivations for worrying about the 'anything goes problem' and then go on to show that the problem can be solved by correcting two mistaken assumptions. In short, we argue that the problem is a product of adopting an overly sparse functional perspective that assumes an unrealistically high degree of convergence in the trajectories of natural processes; our analysis illuminates why such assumptions are unwarranted. Further, we argue that adopting an appropriate ethical framework is essential to overcoming the 'anything goes problem', and suggest that a certain virtue-ethics conception of ecological management provides useful resources for framing and resolving the problem.


Novel ecosystems, ecosystem function and functioning, historicity, Anthropocene, virtue ethics

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Environmental Values and Adaptive Management Bryan G. Norton and Anne C. Steinemann

Editorial: Adapting to a Perilous Planet. Kenneth Shockley and Andrew Light

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Social Ecological Transformation, Whether You Like It or Not! Clive L. Spash

The Good, the Wild, and the Native: An Ethical Evaluation of Ecological Restoration, Native Landscaping, and the 'Wild Ones' of Wisconsin. Laura M. Hartman, Kathleen M. Wooley

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