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FEATURE ARTICLE

Nature Is Dead. Long Live Nature!

What is the natural world? And other thorny questions in restoration ecology

Robert J. Cabin

2013-01CabinF1.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageThe years since the publication of Bill McKibben’s 1989 book The End of Nature have proved McKibben’s prescient warnings about the consequences of climate change to be depressingly accurate. But was his vision of the death of nature similarly prophetic, or greatly exaggerated? Hawaii’s many paradoxes provide a globally important microcosm in which to examine this question. Despite the islands’ relatively low overall biological diversity, three-quarters of all of America’s bird and plant extinctions have occurred within Hawaii, and it now has more endangered species per square mile than any other place in the world. As a postdoc and as a research ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service, Cabin was immersed in the scientific and conservation communities’ efforts to better understand and conserve the islands’ remaining native species and ecosystems. These efforts and their results  suggest that viewing humans and nature as inseparable can help motivate us to preserve our remaining biodiversity and create more harmonious relationships between people and nature.


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