Changing Nature: The Myth of the Inevitability of Ecosystem Management

Posted: 7 Apr 2003

See all articles by Bruce Pardy

Bruce Pardy

Queen's University - Faculty of Law


Must ecosystems be managed? Ecosystem management is a process that measures, controls and changes ecosystems to produce the most desirable environment in human terms. It derives its legitimacy from two developments, the theory of nonequilibrium in ecosystems and the extinction of pristine systems: ecosystems exist in a fluid and dynamic state, and there are no ecosystems that are completely unaffected by human impact. Therefore, according to the prevailing view, it is not possible to preserve ecosystems in a natural state. The purpose of this article is to question the logic of the foregoing conclusion. Neither nonequilibrium nor the absence of pristine systems dictates that ecosystems must be controlled and deliberately changed. The argument presented in this article is not that natural is preferable, but that it is possible, and that the debate between ecological preservation and environmental utilitarianism can and should occur. If science and law dictate that there are no options but to deliberately change ecosystems, as the managers would have us believe, then the debate has no relevance. Thus, the case is not that ecological preservation is a better choice than ecosystem management, but that there is a choice to make. Ecosystem management is a policy choice masquerading as an inevitability.

Keywords: Ecosystem management, Nonequilibrium

JEL Classification: K3, N5, Q2

Suggested Citation

Pardy, Bruce, Changing Nature: The Myth of the Inevitability of Ecosystem Management. Pace Environmental Law Review, Vol. 20, Summer 2003. Available at SSRN: or

Bruce Pardy (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6
613-533-6000 Ext. 77570 (Phone)
613-533-6509 (Fax)


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