Essay on Remediation by John Cairns, Jr.

The acid test of humankind's relationship to natural systems is the degree to which ecological damage caused by humans is repaired by humans. Technology and science are available, so the remaining stimulus needed for implementation of ecological restoration is the ethical responsibility to do so. Ecological restoration can be regarded as enlightened self-interest for humankind since it increases both natural capital and ecosystem services. However, well-designed ecological restoration projects should have a major ethical component since the future of non-human life forms on Earth requires more than self-interest. Although the field of science has provided various rationales for ecological restoration, ethical issues associated with such activities must also be considered. If, as seems likely, human society and natural systems are co-evolving, restoration of damaged ecosystems will improve both ecological and human health. The term 'ecosocietal restoration' emphasizes this close relationship. However, if ecological restoration considers only human needs and does not emphasize ecological integrity, human-dominated ecosystems could become the norm. Such domination is already marked but the relationship could easily worsen. This article lists seven major ethical issues in ecological restoration. This list is not encyclopedic but illustrative. Finally, there are five questions that human society must address that require robust scientific information to make a sound ethical judgment.
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