Mastery of Nature

Martha Ross, Fall 2021

In the article, “When nature won’t stay still: Conservation, Equilibrium, and Control”, author William Adams defines the ecologies of equilibrium and disequilibrium, and the role of outside forces in the control and regulation of natural processes. Adams recognizes the transition from an equilibrium paradigm that ecosystems are static and closed systems, to a non-equilibrium paradigm that addresses the dynamic and open nature of ecosystems, as well as the role of humans as a disturbance and catalyst for ecological change. This paper discusses conservation as a social practice that regulates and controls relationships between humans and non-human nature. Conservation is often used to keep nature within certain bounds and follows what ecological research describes as nature. Adams describes control as an essential idea to restoration ecology and practice, “…the ability to restore quickly, but to restore at will, controlling speed, decelerating change, as well as accelerating it, reversing it…” (Adams, 2002). In one sense, restoration is the restoration of naturalness, yet it relies on the ability to predict and control outcomes of natural ecosystem processes.    

Biopolitics is an additional concept that plays an important role in Adam’s definition of restoration as control. In the article, “Is the Puerto Rican parrot worth saving? The biopolitics of endangerment and grievability,” Irus Braverman defines biopolitics as the process through which humans decide which non-human species, we “let live” and which we “let die”. Restoration uses biopolitics when deciding what species to remove from and insert into an ecosystem. A common example is invasive species, which are typically removed through eradication. 

In the case of restoration through eradication in the Chesapeake Bay, restoration practitioners use trapping and shooting methods to rid the area of nutria, an invasive mammal. Restoration is being used as a method to control the population of nutria in the area as well as the ecosystem’s rebound from the removal of nutria. Furthermore, biopolitics are also being used to dictate which species are removed from the environment. By analyzing restoration as controlling and changing restoration methods based on this idea, the treatment of all non-human species changes and humans begin to value non-human life and the sustainment of the environment.

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