"Novel Ecosystems"

Jenny has a new project up at a site called The Faster Times called Earth Matters. She wrote a piece the other day that caught my eye (though I like her description of geography) in which she called my attention to a recent article in Nature about "novel ecosystems". In short, they're ecosystems that aren't directly man-made but are completely implicated in and result from human activity. Read the whole piece, but in closing, she wrote:

Ecology’s lukewarm acceptance of these novel, dynamic, exotic—whatever you want to call them—areas within nature are perhaps a reflection of a bigger conceptual shift in our environmental thinking as well. As recently as 15 years ago, ecology as a discipline stood stalwartly by the biodiversity ethic that sought to preserve “wild” or “native” tracks of natural areas. Seemingly untouched wetlands and forests were, and to many ecologists still are, bastions of species biodiversity. These areas, like parts of the Amazon rainforest in South America or the Congo Basin forest in Central Africa, have typically been looked at with an eye towards preservation, or conservation. We must stop not only the rate of deforestation of these areas, say some academics and activists, but we must also maintain the diversity of plant and animal species that have inhabited these areas for longer than we humans have been keeping records of such things. To them, biodiversity is the gold standard. Extinction is the enemy.

Slices of land that are considered wild and are even quarantined from human access with a “Don’t Touch” sign—save for research purposes—can also be considered museum pieces, if they exist intact at all. But they are certainly not the majority of landscapes on the earth today, as “Ragamuffin Earth” points out, not even close.

The article raises more questions than I have time to deal with at the moment (such as: the idea of "wild" as culturally and historically specific; wondering at ways of linking debates about "biodiversity" to a liberal cosmopolitanism; the cultural currency of ideas like "intact" and "wild"), but it was enough to distract me from work I should be doing. Or it offered a release. Or something. Take a look if you have the time.


Popular Posts