Friday, April 15, 2011

Biological Slumming

The phrase is from Richard Mabey as he struggles to justify his interest in what he calls "unofficial countryside" in London. He insists that they are not a substitute for official countryside, "nor are they something to be cherished in their own right, necessarily." The tag at the end gives him leave to enjoy biological slumming in urban wastelands without losing his bearings about what kind of nature we should really cherish.

This kind of rhetorical gymnasitics drives my philosophical interest in marginal nature. But as an urban ecologist, I do not share Mabey's ambivalence to marginal nature. I do cherish these habitats. I even like non-native species which numerically add to the biodiversity of the habitat and often add to its functionality. Heresy this is, in the eyes of the orthodox environmentalist community [and to conservation biologists, restoration ecologists] in Austin and the US. So it goes.

Why do I not feel any guilt about enjoying this kind of nature? My mental deficiency perhaps.

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