Restoration and authenticity revisited

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.4, 2018


Restoration and authenticity revisited (Abstract)


Marion Hourdequin and David G. Havlick


One of the central worries raised in relation to ecological restoration concerns the problem of authenticity. Robert Elliot, for example, has argued that restoration “fakes nature.” On this view, restoration is like art forgery: it deceptively suggests that its product was produced in a certain way, when in fact, it was not. Restored landscapes present themselves as the product of “natural processes,” when in actuality, they have been significantly shaped by human intervention. For Elliott, there seem to be two sources of inauthenticity in ecological restoration: first, the restored landscape is inauthentic because its natural genealogy has been disrupted by the intervention of humans: it has lost its authentic natural identity; second, the restored landscape is inauthentic because it pretends to be something it is not: it obscures its own history. We argue that the first sense of authenticity is problematic; however, the second concern - about obscuring history - is important. Case studies involving the naturalization of former military lands can be used to tease out more fully the ways in which landscapes can be “inauthentic” by misleading observers about their genealogy. In such landscapes, it is not departure from “the original” per se that is the source of inauthenticity; rather, restored landscapes fail to be authentic when they deceptively obscure critical elements of their past.