Tag Archives: conservation


A New York Times Magazine article Is There an Ecological Unconscious? discusses ecopyschology:

In Albrecht’s view, the residents of the Upper Hunter were suffering not just from the strain of living in difficult conditions but also from something more fundamental: a hitherto unrecognized psychological condition. In a 2004 essay, he coined a term to describe it: “solastalgia,” a combination of the Latin word solacium (comfort) and the Greek root –algia (pain), which he defined as “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home.’ ”

… “Soliphilia” describes a psychological foundation for sustainability that seems to depend on already having the values that make sustainability possible: the residents of the Cape to Cape might have a “sense of interconnectedness,” but how do the rest of us gain, or regain, that sense?

At present, ecopsychology seems to be struggling with this question. Philosophically, the field depends on an ideal of ecological awareness or communion against which deficits can then be measured. And so it often seems to rest on assuming as true what it is trying to prove to be true: being mentally healthy requires being ecologically attuned, but being ecologically attuned requires being mentally healthy. And yet, in its ongoing effort to gain legitimacy, ecopsychology is at least looking for ways to establish standards. Recently, The American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychological Association, invited the members of the organization’s climate-change task force to submit individual papers; Thomas Doherty is taking the opportunity to develop his categorization of responses to environmental problems. His model, which he showed me an early draft of, makes distinctions that are bound to be controversial: at the pathological end of the spectrum, for example, after psychotic delusions, he places “frank denial” of environmental issues. The most telling feature of the model, however, may be how strongly it equates mental health with the impulse to “promote connection with nature” — in other words, with a deeply ingrained ecological outlook. Critics would likely point out that ecopsychologists smuggle a worldview into what should be the value-neutral realm of therapy. Supporters would likely reply that, like Bateson, ecopsychologists are not sneaking in values but correcting a fundamental error in how we conceive of the mind: to understand what it is to be whole, we must first explain what is broken.

Integrating Optimization and Resilience Thinking in Conservation

Resilience thinking and optimization are often viewed as opposites, but resilience thinking is more critical of how optimization is frequently applied rather than the technique per-se.  A new paper in TREE Integrating resilience thinking and optimisation for conservation (doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.03.020) by Joern Fischer and others, including myself, attempt to integrate resilience thinking and optimization.  We propose that by actively embedding optimisation analyses within a resilience-thinking framework ecosystem management could draw on the complementary strengths of both, thereby promoting cost-effective and enduring conservation outcomes.

The paper’s Table 1 provides an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of optimization for conservation and resilience thinking:

Optimisation for conservation

Resilience thinking

Strengths (inherent) Recognises resource scarcity Recognises system complexity
Encourages transparency in resource allocation Recognises interdependence of social and biophysical systems
Strengths (in practice) Can provide specific answers to a well-defined problem Encourages anticipation of undesirable surprises or thresholds
Fits well with how business and governments operate Encourages reflection on how a system works
Weaknesses (inherent) Sensitive to accuracy of underlying assumptions and system model Potentially difficult to apply to systems without identifiable alternate states
Weaknesses (in practice) Targets or budget constraints are often informed by politics rather than an in-depth understanding of underlying system dynamics Reliant on tools from other disciplines to be operational to inform policy
The term ‘optimal’ can sound absolute to policymakers and the general public The term ‘resilience’ can appear vague to policymakers and the general public

And we discuss three themes that both approaches need to address (i) dealing with social issues; (ii) dealing with uncertainties and the limited extent to which they can be controlled; and (iii) avoiding undesirable states that constrain reversibility.

Vienna Zoo: Wildlife and Humanity

(Photo by Christoph Steinbrener and Rainer Dempf.)

Sculptor Christoph Steinbrener and photographer Reiner Dempf have modified the animal enclosures of the Vienaa Zoo for summer 2009 (June 10 – October 18) for their show Trouble in Paradise. Their show transforms the idealized wild setting in which animals into settings that contain some our activities that are endangering animal populations outside of zoos.

The artists describe their show as:

… A sunken car wreck at the rhinos, railroad tracks in the bison pen or toxic waste in the aquarium are unexpectedly interfering with our notions of idyllic wildlife. The viewer is forced to reconsider traditional modes of animal presentation and simultaneously to question the authenticity of concepts which are restaging ‘natural’ environments while they are increasingly endangered.

…Present-day conceptions of zoological gardens aim at the presentation of animals in an idyllic and apparently natural environment, untouched by civilization. But this is a contemporary conception, since courtly menageries and kennels were adapted to the exposure of animals as decorative objects. Until the early years of the 20th century, animals were part of a preferably spectacular and exotic staging, to the entertainment and amazement of the public. The artificial and the sensational were foregrounded, without creating a realistic setting of the natural environment of the animals.

(Photo by Christoph Steinbrener and Rainer Dempf.)

(Photo by Christoph Steinbrener and Rainer Dempf.)

(Photo by Christoph Steinbrener and Rainer Dempf.)

All photos by Christoph Steinbrener and Rainer Dempf from their webpage.

via Pruned.