Environmental Ethics 32 (1):17-32 (2010)
According to Michael Soulé, the debate over whether we should or should not actively manage our nature preserves has driven a deep wedge between “wilderness purists,” who advocate a hands-off approach to nature, and “nature managers,” who want to give nature a helping hand whenever the “fullness of the biota” is under threat. Although both camps share the same formal goal, i.e., preserving “authentic nature,” managers and purists have differing views about what the “authenticity of nature” stands for. By introducing a third way of conceptualizing the authenticity of nature that holds the middle-ground between the authenticity of the purists and the managers—namely, natural areas as authentic relics—a bridge can be found between the two positions. As in the case of heath restorations in Flanders, Belgium, the theory of relics can provide an alternative way in which the concept of authenticity is used when evaluating preservation or restoration projects. Moreover, the conception of natural areas as relics is already tacitly at work within certain preservation and/or restoration practices. A comparison of the theory of relics with Robert Elliot’s anti-restoration thesis as put forward in Faking Nature shows that the theory of relics can, to a large degree, save Elliot’s anti-restorationist’s stance in a world that is waking up to the reality of the “end of nature,” while at the same time softening the rigid rejection of all restorative practices implied in the anti-restoration thesis
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