Ecological restoration is an intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Frequently, human activities are the reason why the ecosystem requires restoration. Indeed, poorly conceived human activities may even be implicated in such 'natural' occurrences as wildfire, floods, and storms.
Restoration is needed when the ecosystem cannot recover its pre-disturbance state and continue its evolution. The goal of restoration is to enable the system to recover autogenic processes to the point where assistance from humans is no longer needed. This means that the restoration process is complete when an ecosystem recovers the ability to sustain itself structurally and functionally and to withstand normal environmental disturbances.
Restoration involves returning a habitat to a previous condition that is known as a 'reference state'. But there are many 'previous conditions' from which to choose. In order to convey this point, the following choices are represented in terms of centuries:
19th century condition of family farms and early industrialization.
READ TO LIFE! Any three chapters exploring the work of the artists mentioned below.
Some of the artists presented in this section heighten awareness of the need for restoration (Chin, Haacke, Harrisons, Potrc,). Others actively engage in habitat restoration as a sculptural practice (Ballengee, Bayer, Chin, Ngo, Sherk, Yeh).
PROJECT: The fact that fine art conventions interfere with the pursuit of restoration mandates explains why many of the artists in this section have eliminated and replaced many of these conventions. Apply as many of the characteristics of restoration art that are indicated below to complete this project.
Restoration eco art is NOT:
-a representation or illustration.
-an isolated, autonomous object.
-a commodity that can be exhibited or purchased.
-valued according to market sales.
-inspired by landscapes that are pristine, but by those that are damaged.
-essentially aesthetic; restoration art privileges function over formal considerations.
-self-expressive; restoration art features eco-system conditions over personal expression.
Choose a personal item that can serve as a metaphor for a damaged environment. Use it to enact one of the following restoration protocols:
What specific environmental problem could be represented by your metaphorical work of art?
RESEARCH / DISCUSSION: Since restoration ecology has a defined goal, it would seem that restorationists could proceed without doubt or hesitation. However, the following observation complicates this task. There is a concern related to restoration projects. Ironically, it addresses those that succeed, not those that fail. "The most significant implication of art as land reclamation is that art can and should be used to wipe away technological guilt. Do those sites scarred by mining or poisoned by chemicals now seem less like the entropic liabilities of ravenous and short-sighted industry and more like long-awaited aesthetic possibilities? Will it be a little easier in the future to rip up the landscape for one last shovelful of non-renewable energy source if an artist can be found (cheap, mind you) to transform the devastation into an inspiring and modern work of art?"13
Robert Elliot also doubts the long term benefits of restoration. He presents two arguments against restoration ecology in his essay "Faking Nature." On the one hand, he compares ecological restoration to art forgery and concludes that neither a restored habitat nor a forged artwork can reproduce the value of the original. On the other hand, he asserts that skillful habitat restoration allows people to rationalize mistreatment of the environment since damage can always be repaired.
Do you believe it is better to restore or to not restore?