It’s Not A Delicate Balance

Another gem from Matt Ridley.

Ecology and Change: Nature Has No ‘Balance’ for Us to Keep – Mind & Matter – Academic ecologists have abandoned such a static way of thinking for something much more dynamic. For a start, they now appreciate that climate has always changed, and with it, ecology. Twenty thousand years ago the spot where I live was under a mile of ice. Then it was tundra, then birch forest, then pine forest, then alder, linden, elm and ash, then most recently oak, but beech was coming.

Yet even as academic ecologists have abandoned balance-of-nature thinking, it still dominates practical conservation management. Ms. Marris quotes the ecologist Daniel Botkin: “If you ask an ecologist if nature never changes, he will almost always say no. But if you ask that same ecologist to design a policy, it is almost always a balance-of-nature policy”: preserve this rare species, maintain this habitat structure, freeze in time this ecological moment, return this degraded land to a particular state, whatever the weather and whatever the novel arrivals of exotic species. Just as in our management of the economy, we think of states, not processes.