- Ecological restoration is “an attempt to design nature with non-human collaborators” in response to the biodiversity crisis.
- The very idea that nature is something outside of society often hampers practical solutions, and is an impediment to restoring ecosystems, Laura Martin, associate professor of environmental studies at Williams College, argues in this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
- In this podcast conversation, co-host Rachel Donald speaks with Martin about the shift in mindset required to tackle biodiversity loss that centers on a restorative approach that’s human-inclusive and mobilizes public participation rather than exclusion.
On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, co-host Rachel Donald speaks with Laura Martin, an associate professor of environmental studies at Williams College in Massachusetts. Donald and Martin dive into the restoration vs. preservation debate, and why Martin says a focus on the former is the way to address the biodiversity crisis. Martin defines restoration as “an attempt to design nature with non-human collaborators,” which she details in her book Wild by Design: The Rise of Ecological Restoration.
Restoration isn’t a new concept, but it is increasingly championed by researchers and scientists for its ability to tackle planetary crises like climate change and biodiversity loss. Historically, it’s been given less consideration by state and local governments, some of which continue to favor a “fortress conservation” model of preservation. That model is increasingly criticized for its human rights record and its failure to incorporate the human element that has helped mold and shape ecosystems for centuries.
“I do think that idea that nature is something outside of society, this Western idea [that] permeates much of global environmentalism is also … a barrier to imagining a different future,” Martin says.
Today, nearly 80% of the remaining biodiversity on Earth is on land stewarded or owned by Indigenous populations. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification says that Indigenous land rights are crucial to scaling up restoration efforts. One popular vision of such efforts is reforestation, though restoration is distinct from monocultural tree planting: even partially logged or degraded forests have been shown to provide more ecological services than plantations, according to research.
See related content:
- Podcast: Is ecosystem restoration our last/best hope for a sustainable future?
- Japanese butterfly conservation takes flight when integrated with human communities
Subscribe to or follow the Mongabay Newscast wherever you get podcasts, from Apple to Spotify, and you can also listen to all episodes here on the Mongabay website, or download our free app for Apple and Android devices to gain instant access to our latest episodes and all our previous ones.
Rachel Donald is an investigative reporter and journalism lecturer based in London. She hosts the podcast Planet: Critical and her latest thoughts can be found on 𝕏 via @CrisisReports and at Bluesky via @racheldonald.bsky.social.
Banner Image: A ranger planting a sapling in the Masungi Georeserve, Philippines. As of 2023, more than 100,000 native trees have been planted and are being continuously nurtured by rangers, visitors and partners in Masungi’s reforestation site. Image courtesy of Masungi Georeserve.