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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about restoring ecosystems and going to the movies in Africa.

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Restore, not just maintain, ecosystems

Regarding the April 19 editorial, "Human-created 'wilderness' in the Galápagos": In this editorial, the Monitor suggests that efforts to protect the natural world should focus on better managing what's left, rather than investing in ecological restoration that projects "a myth of lost purity onto a fallen landscape." We agree that better management of "what's left" is needed, but, unfortunately, "what's left" is not enough to maintain the ecology on which we all depend.

It is true that even our most imaginative and ambitious ecological restoration projects will never recreate what we have lost, but to focus on this limitation is short-sighted. Ecological restoration is not important because it recreates ecosystems, but because it heals them in a way that allows them to recreate themselves.

Today, the reach of human influence on the environment is global and the need for long-term solutions more pressing than ever. While there are many examples of personal and cultural solutions to our ecological crisis, ecological restoration is emblematic. The Society for Ecological Restoration defines restoration as an intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its health, integrity, and sustainability. Restoration is working – lands once cultivated now support myriad wildlife, concrete-capped streams have seen the light of day, once-polluted waters now flow clean, and some endangered species are making a comeback. The bulldozers once used to clear land of native vegetation, level fields, and sow crops are now being employed to remove levees, reconnect floodplains, and sow native plants.

Would Darwin chuckle at our feeble attempts to heal the ecological damage we have done?


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