eCite Digital Repository

The Naturalness Versus Wilderness Debate: Ambiguity, Inconsistency and Unattainable Objectivity


Ridder, BP, The Naturalness Versus Wilderness Debate: Ambiguity, Inconsistency and Unattainable Objectivity, Restoration Ecology, 15, (1) pp. 8-12. ISSN 1061-2971 (2007) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1526-100X.2006.00184.x


The naturalness versus wildness debate has gained some prominence in recent years and has seen considerable discussion of issues akin to those that have generated such tension between restorationists and preservationists. This debate is hampered by the terms in which it is framed. The primary meaning of both naturalness and wildness relates to the description of processes or behavior that lack human intervention. This enables human activities and artifacts (such as childbirth, food, and medicine) to be rated according to naturalness. However, when the terms are applied to the description of species and ecosystems, process-oriented definitions are forgotten in favor of historical benchmarks. This can result in serious inconsistencies between those who adhere to the different interpretations, exemplified by the tendency of conservationists to view "naturalness" as being consistent with human intervention in natural processes. The choice of one or the other interpretation is motivated by whether one prioritizes the conservation of biodiversity or minimizing human intervention. There have been claims that naturalness provides an objective measure for assessing biodiversity and calls for value-laden terms to be avoided. Yet, the values are central, and the best that can be hoped for is that the debate be framed using terms that are more indicative of these underlying values. It is suggested here that naturalness versus wildness be recast as "protecting biodiversity" versus "respect for nature's autonomy." Not only do these terms avoid the ambiguities of their forebears but they also expose the debate as the result of slight shifts in value priorities rather than fundamentally opposed worldviews. © 2007 Society for Ecological Restoration International.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Philosophy and Religious Studies
Research Group:Applied ethics
Research Field:Applied ethics not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Ridder, BP (Mr Benjamin Ridder)
ID Code:40778
Year Published:2007
Web of Science® Times Cited:30
Deposited By:Geography and Environmental Studies
Deposited On:2007-08-01
Last Modified:2008-06-03

Repository Staff Only: item control page