The Future is Not the Past

On Tuesday, I gave a talk at the US Geological Survey office in Portland on the topic “The Future is Not the Past: the Role of History in a Changing Landscape.”  In the talk, I summarized an article that I have been working on with Eric Higgs and a bunch of other people that defends the continued use of history in ecological restoration, even in the face of “non-analog” or novel environments that have no direct referent to the past.    I also talked about ideas about anthropogenic biomes, described in this article by Ellis and Ramankutty from 2008.   Then  this morning I came across this piece in the October 7 issue of Science that I wish I had read before my talk, on debates about whether we are in fact in a new geological age, the Anthropocene.  These all support my contention that we really live in a world dominated by humans, that there is very little of it that is untouched by humans, and that therefore any attempt at restoration, indeed any discussion of ecological conditions,  must acknowledge human presence and human history.  This is not exactly an original contention, but I continue to find people who seem surprised to hear it.

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