Acton Institute Powerblog

Debunking the Preservationist Myth

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An article from Nature examines how even human activity as inherently destructive as military exercises can actually boost biodiversity. In “Military exercises ‘good for endangered species,'” Michael Hopkin writes of the results of a study conducted following US military exercises in Germany.

Ecologist Steven Warren of Colorado State University says that “military land can host more species than agricultural land.” And “What’s more, its biodiversity can also exceed that of natural parks, where species that need disturbance cannot get a foothold” (emphasis added).

Hopkin further reports, “The tendency when setting aside a nature reserve is to prevent disturbances such as periodic flooding, says Warren. But this can inadvertently remove some habitats.”

“[Tanks] replace to some degree the processes that have been stopped,” Warren says. The same goes for fires caused by bombing. “We’ve trained generations of people that fire is bad,” he says, “but in fact it’s crucial for ecosystems.”

This flies in the face of conventional eco-wisdom, which holds up undisturbed and pristine wilderness, untouched by human hands, as the environmental ideal. For more comparison of the productive vs. the preservationist view of stewardship, see this commentary.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.

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