Chapter 3: From protection to restoration: a challenge for environmental governance
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Environmental protection continues to be the key driver of conceptual and technical developments in environmental law and governance. However, protection initiatives alone simply assume that passive restoration will support ecosystem health and resilience moving forward. In the Anthropocene, where talks about breaches of planetary boundaries are too common, we have to rethink whether concepts like protection or even sustainability make us complacent about nature’s own capacity to restore itself. Restoration ecology encourages human beings to actively assist with the holistic recovery of ecosystems to an historical trajectory that will enable it to function in a healthy way. This chapter considers whether international environmental law is geared to supporting restoration generally and restoration ecology in particular. After examining the significance of restoration for reshaping environmental governance in the Anthropocene this chapter surveys international soft law instruments and asks whether and to what extent they have dealt with restoration issues and whether enough evidence exists to suggest that the groundwork has been done to shift environmental law from simply protecting ecosystem to holistically restoring them in the Anthropocene. The chapter argues that international environmental law has yet to use holistic approaches to restoration that compel the involvement of human beings as active agents in the recovery of ecosystem. Crucially, existing international environmental law has yet to define ecological parameters for states who undertake legally mandated restoration; as a result, restoration in practice may do little more than achieve remediation and rehabilitation, leading to an irreversible loss of ecosystem functions.

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Edited by Douglas Fisher