Environmental Philosophy

Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2009

Jozef Keulartz
Pages 35-55

Boundary Work in Ecological Restoration

Two protracted debates about the moral status of animals in ecological restoration projects are discussed that both testify to the troubling aspects of our inclination to think in terms of dualisms and dichotomies. These cases are more or less complementary: the first one is about the (re)introduction of species that were once pushed out of their native environment; the other one concerns the elimination or eradication of “exotic” and “alien” species that have invaded and degraded ecosystems. Both cases show the detrimental impact of dualistic thinking on ecological restoration projects. In the first case, communication and cooperation between stakeholders is frustrated by the opposition of zoocentrism and ecocentrism; in the second case the opposition of nativism and cosmopolitanism appears to be a major stumbling block for consensus building and conflict management. I will argue that “gradualization”—thinking in terms of degrees instead of boundaries—can offer a way out of this black-and-white thinking and can open up space for negotiation and deliberation among different and sometimes diverging perspectives.