Replacement and irreversibility: The problem with ecological restoration as moral repair

Eric Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Should the process of ecological restoration be considered a type of moral reparation? In a recent issue of this journal, Ben Almassi (2017) has argued that ecological restoration should be understood as a moral repair, i.e., as "a model for rebuilding the moral conditions of relationships" (20). Ideas of restorative justice and moral repair are appropriate to address human injustice and wrongdoing. But these concepts are vacuous and lose their meaning when addressing the ethics of human activities regarding the natural world because of the essential character of the restoration process: the replacement or substitution of new entities for pre-existing entities in an attempt to reverse the irreversible. At best, the idea of moral reparations to nature is a weak metaphor with no practical efficacy; at worst, it totally misconceives the relationship between human activity and the natural environment in the process of ecological restoration and provides yet another dangerous and disingenuous justification of human arrogance and domination of the natural world. In the guise of the act of moral reparations, humans are instead attempting to assume the powers of God, to control the natural and human world. My previous criticisms of the ethics and meaning of ecological restorations - especially regarding the substitution of new individuals and the artifactual nature of restorations - can be used to undermine Almassi's thesis of moral repair as a goal of ecological restoration practice. In addition an analysis of the Book of Job in the Old Testament demonstrates that not even God - much less humans - can restore and replace what has been destroyed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-28
Number of pages12
JournalEthics and the Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Philosophy


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