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Title: The language of nature matters: we need a more public ecology

Author: Hull, Bruce R.; Robertson, David P.;

Date: 2000

Source: In: Gobster, Paul H.; R. Bruce, eds. Restoring nature: perspectives from the social sciences and humanities. Washington, DC: Island Press: 97-118. 2000

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The language we use to describe nature matters. It is used by policy analysts to set goals for ecological restoration and management, by scientists to describe the nature that did, does, or could exist, and by all of us to imagine possible and acceptable conditions of environmental quality. Participants in environmental decision making demand a lot of the language and terminology used to discuss nature.We expect it to be precise and valid (i.e., we expect it to allow accurate scientific descriptions of the environment and of environmental quality). We also expect it to be powerful and fair (i.e., we expect it to help stakeholders negotiate acceptable and achievable goals for environmental management). The problem is that the language of nature is often neither precise nor value neutral. There exist multiple, conflicting, imprecise, and biased definitions of the terms used to discuss nature. These vagaries of language can cause conflict that delays or derails well-intentioned efforts to restore and manage nature. This conflict results when people use the same terms to intentionally or unintentionally mean different things or use particular definitions to suppress or promote particular values.

Keywords: language, environmental quality, restoration, ecology

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
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Hull, Bruce R.; Robertson, David P. 2000. The language of nature matters: we need a more public ecology. In: Gobster, Paul H.; R. Bruce, eds. Restoring nature: perspectives from the social sciences and humanities. Washington, DC: Island Press: 97-118. 2000

 


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