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Managing for Virtue

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The Moral Debate over Novel Ecosystems

image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

A debate has emerged among ecologists regarding the designation of novel ecosystems, systems so altered by human impacts that restoration to historic conditions is practically impossible. This article considers this debate from the perspective of environmental pragmatism, viewing it as a site where fundamental views about the proper relationships of humans to their environments are being negotiated, albeit implicitly. The challenge, then, is to bring these negotiations to the fore, seeing human relationships as among the relevant characteristics considered in restoration decisions. It is argued that this need not lead to further confrontation; rather, the goal may be a workable moral pluralism, according to which different objectives are appropriate for different systems, but some shared fundamental orientation is assumed. Moreover, such an approach may be useful for a broad range of ecological decisions, beyond the debate over novel ecosystems.

Affiliations: 1: The University of the South


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