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The Earth Charter and Ecological Integrity—Some Policy Implications

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The concept of ecological integrity is deeply embedded within the Earth Charter. Ecological integrity refers to the full functioning of a suite of natural processes. "Natural" refers to processes that exist without human input. Arguments against the scientifi c validity of ecological integrity are based on the proposition that the current state of ecological systems merely refl ects past contingencies and consequently there is no natural, healthy condition that can be prescribed scientifi cally. Hence, nature conservation and environmental management goals are a matter of individual and social values and priorities. This argument can be rejected largely on the grounds that integrity of ecosystem processes can be empirically demonstrated, and that the continued wellbeing of humanity depends on the ecological integrity of various natural processes known as Earth's life support systems. The main policy implications of ecological integrityfl ow from accepting that the future wellbeing of the human endeavour is irrevocably coupled to the ongoing integrity of the total Earth system. The caring and compassionate attitude towards wild animals also promoted by the Earth Charter provides additional moral impetus to protecting habitat in situ and consequently ecological integrity. Protecting ecological integrity will require both reorientating the human endeavour towards new patterns of production and consumption together with a commitment to making room for wild nature.


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