Humans’ relationship with nature:

Quotes from defenders of restorationism and inventionism, sometimes against preservationism

This emergence of ecological restoration is, in my mind, the most important environmental development since the first Earth Day. It allows people to participate in healing the wounds left on the earth, acknowledging the human power to create as well as to destroy.

            Gary Paul Nabhan, 1991.

We need to understand both the ‘natural’ and the ‘wild’ in such a way that we can imagine giving more to the world around us than the gift of our mere absence.

            John Visvader, 1995


The new view of nature is admittedly poorer in romantic purity and mystic detachment. Yet it’s richer in participation. The values that are being lost are not entirely to be mourned: to a considerable degree they were a product of our alienation from nature. The restoration ethic allows us once again to belong in nature. Throughout most of our species’ history, we were a part of nature. Our challenge now is to rediscover that role and play it well.

            Steve Packard, 1993

It's an honor to be among the first to have a nurturing relationship with wild nature...If we are dependent on nature, what's so terrible about nature being dependent on us too. We can help nature maintain its health...And, at least for prairies, savannas, and oak woodlands of Illinois we have to help those areas or they'll be lost...In some ways nature was our parents and now we're its parents. Now it depends on us. We don't want to depend on anyone and we don't want anyone to depend on us. As we mature, however, most of us come to realize that this attitude is ultimately pretty boring and empty.

            Steve Packard, 1990

Preservationism continues to believe that Eden actually exists; the restorationist has turned to a different task, of actually making Eden out of raw materials in a landscape compromised by history. . . Eden never was a real place, but a product of human imagination, an invention. Thus it only makes sense that the way to attain Eden is not to search for it, but to make it. Eden is a land where nature and culture co-evolve in harmony. The illusion of America as unspoiled land occupied by innocent people nurtured an environmental ethos that idealized wilderness, effectively precluded human citizenship in the land community, overlooked achievements in land management of pre-Columbian peoples, and led to passive destruction of many ecosystems through their protection from human influences such as fire, hunting and other forms of ecosystem management.

            William Jordan, 1992

Whether we wish to admit it or not, the world really is a garden and invites and even requires our constant participation and habitation..

            William Jordan, Orion, p. 25, (1987?)

Humans as custodians of resources who work along with nonhuman forces to sustain life. Humans as partners in natural processes rather than masters--not outside of nature but part of it. If we are part of nature, then our intelligence and discoveries are part of nature too. We should use this science and technology to improve rather than degrade the world. Productive, domesticated landscape (e.g., farm fields and woodlots, not wildlands) is the ideal.

            Cunningham and Saigo (1995)

Human beings can improve on nature. The partnership between humankind and Earth has generated values that transcend those created by natural forces working alone. La terre a besoin des hommes (the land needs people). The Earth has potentialities that remain unexpressed until properly manipulated by human labor and imagination and the heroic love-adventure of humankind (in) the wooing of Earth.

            Rene Dubos, The Wooing of Earth (1980)

Wilderness areas from which humans are systematically excluded are “the most astonishingly unnatural places on earth.”

            Frederick Turner (1985, p. 45)

 "Human reproductions of nature are not substitutes for authentic nature but are authentic nature."

                        Frederick Turner (Harpers, 1990)

[Humans as] the quintessential element of nature...Humankind is more what nature is than anything else....Nature has this tendency toward increasingly more complex ways of passing on information from the big bang all the way up. Humankind is what nature has been trying, all these millennia, "to be."

            Frederick Turner (Harpers, 1990)

Dave Foreman: I guess I disagree with everybody. We are foolish to believe that all our problems are solvable, especially by technology or sociology. The technological fix often creates twice as many problems as it solves. We need fewer solutions and more humility. Our environmental problems originate in the hubris of imagining ourselves as the central nervous system or the brain of nature. We're not the brain, we are a cancer on nature.

Frederic Turner: There may be limits to technology, but I've seen blackened and polluted sections of England made rich with life. Technology is not necessarily bad, and neither are we I deeply object to the metaphor of humankind as a cancer. My parable, Dave, is that early on, when life first appeared, the crystals and chemical organisms must have thought, What is this thing that keeps reproducing itself? It keeps on changing. It's messing up the atmosphere. It keeps transforming itself. It's full of hubris, life. For what is life but a cancer upon the purity of the inorganic? If we are a cancer, if life is a cancer, then I am for it. The nervous system is a glorious cancer that has evolved, and I stand with it. I am that cancer.

Foreman: And I am the antibody. (Harpers, 1990)