Audio interview: Eric Katz

Following up on the earlier post on Eric Katz’s view of ecological restorations, here’s audio from an interview that Matt Luedtke and I conducted with Professor Katz, with a little background music from composer Chris Zabriskie.

 

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Is the nature/artifact distinction meaningful?

Here’s a response to Professor Katz’s nature/artifact dualism.  It comes from Steven Vogel, who published an article called “The Nature of Artifacts.”  He points out that there is little left in the world that humans have not interfered with.

What we call nature generally turns out to be already humanized in one way or another, and so already in part “artificial.”

But more importantly, he asks why we place the nature/artifact distinction between the human world and the non-human world.

Why, after Darwin, do we treat this particular species, which after all evolved naturally in the same unplanned way as any other, as something outside of nature?

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What does it mean to “restore” nature?

This is a big topic for The Socratic Trailhead, in part because I’m working in restoration ecology.  One of the things I do is organize volunteers at nature preserves to remove invasive species and install native plants.  So I’m particularly interested in asking whether these projects are really what they’ve been made out to be: attempts to “heal” nature for nature’s sake.  But it’s also a fascinating topic because it asks what it means to be human in a non-human world.

Professor Eric Katz is a critic of restorations.  He recently published an article, “Further Adventures in the Case Against Restoration.”  Katz thinks restorations can have positive purposes, such as mitigating damage caused by pollution or recreating wetlands that were destroyed by development.  But he takes issue with their meaning:

To call the product of an ecological restoration project the restoration of nature is, as I provocatively proclaimed twenty years ago, a “big lie.”

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