“Faking nature” revisited

Robert Elliot's 1982 “Faking Nature,” represents one of the strongest philosophical rejections of the ground of restoration ecology ever offered.1 Here, and in a succession of papers defending the original essay, Elliot argued that ecological restoration, the practice of restoring damaged ecosystems, was akin to art forgery. Just as a copied art work could not reproduce the value of the original, restored nature could not reproduce the value of original nature, conceived as a form of nonanthropocentric and intrinsic, as opposed to merely instrumental, value.2 Eric Katz's 1992 “The Big Lie: Human Restoration of Nature,” extended this claim by further arguing that whatever was produced in a restored landscape it certainly could not count as having the original value of nature, particularly wild nature, and necessarily represented a form of disvalue and domination of nature.3 Elliot has continued to press his argument forward since the original publication of “Faking Nature,” augmenting and some would say softening his critique of restoration, in a book also called Faking Nature.4 Perhaps because both Elliot and Katz rest their claims on the defense of a strong nature-culture distinction, the two arguments are often lumped together as the Elliot-Katz rejection of the value of ecological restoration. Nonetheless, Elliot has made it clear in his recent book that his view is distinct from and even at odds with Katz’s views. In previous papers I have criticized Elliot and Katz’s work as an unhelpful philosophical contribution to the literature on restoration ecology. To my mind, restorationists are ultimately up to more good than harm, and whatever the..
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