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Environmental Ethics

Volume 17, Issue 4, Winter 1995

Donald Scherer
Pages 359-379

Evolution, Human Living, and the Practice of Ecological Restoration

Critiques of ecological restoration have rested on the human/natural distinction. In opposition to the difficulties involved in that distinction, I provide a sketch of an evolutionary account of human existence. The instability of environments—beyond individual human control—conditions human life and sets the dynamic for human action. Human interdependence makes human monitoring of human interaction central. I interpret Leopold as concerned about the divergence between ecosystemic and economic value. In the face of reiterative prisoners’ dilemmas arising significantly from problems of scale, the moral imperative is the creation of practices that tolerate ecosystemic degradation minimally and those only in the face of threats to human existence. Against this background, I show that the value of ecological restoration is ambivalent.