Friday, July 6, 2012

Transitory Places, part 3

Ethics in Transitory Places
What does it imply for the conservation project at Karori if the place in which it unfolds is, in some meaningful sense, transitory? What does the possibility of transitory places imply for projects in general, and for our evaluation of their means and ends? It seems to me there are at least three important lessons for environmental ethics to be derived from an acknowledgement that time and change can be unidirectional.

The first lesson is that the ends of the project at hand, not just its means, should be informed by a deep understanding of a particular place and the dynamics that shape it.  It may be obvious that the means for reaching a projects’ ends should be selected on the basis of what is available. That is just a matter of prudent, practical thinking. But that the ends should also be so shaped is less obvious. In this, the goals adopted by the Karori Sanctuary Trust are instructive.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Transitory Places, part 2

Karori Sanctuary as a Transitory Place

I paid two brief visits to Karori Sanctuary in early 2010, in high southern summer.  My visits were about two weeks apart, and I stayed for only a few hours each time, so my direct experience of the place barely amounts to a snapshot. I did not even visit the sanctuary at night, when the kiwi would have been active, or in the early morning, when I could have heard the “dawn chorus” of resurgent native bird life.  The relevant scale of my own visit, then, was a matter of minutes and hours, rather than days and weeks.

Had I been able to stay on in New Zealand to study the sanctuary, and perhaps even volunteer there, or should I be able to go back to visit sometime soon, the relevant scale would still only be a matter of months and years. This would amount to a narrow slice of the half-millennium scope of the conservation effort Karori.  Within that narrow slice, the broader context within which the restoration effort takes place might well seem to be relatively stable: Wellington and its surrounding region seem unlikely to change very much during that time, so those carrying out the project will know what to expect: as they attempt to push the sanctuary back in time, as it were, they can at least know what they are pushing against.