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World Views and the Changing Human Place in Tidal Wetlands

Thu, March 30, 3:30 to 5:00pm, The Drake Hotel, Superior


From a modern world view of the environment as an object to be exploited for human benefit (c. 1780-1970), Western society has passed in the post-modern world view (1970) to an opposite understanding encouraging a protectionist vision of the environment wherein humans are viewed primarily as disturbers of nature. These are classical examples of how, according to different world views, society constructs changing visions of the environment and of the relations of humans with the environment. In today’s context of “protection,” governments have enacted an overarching politic of sustainable development focused on changing the trajectory of future environmental conditions. This preoccupation with the future, however, has the unintended result of skewing research towards understanding the environment solely through the lens of contemporary beliefs. Since the future can only be imagined hypothetically, the only real manner by which to avoid the dangers of presentism is to look backward along the arrow of time. Sensitivity to time and to changing world views provides the researcher with the means to gain multiple perspectives on present and future environments. Using the tidal marshes of the St. Lawrence Estuary as a case in point, this paper explores why science and society have held very different world views about tidal wetlands and human relations with those unique environments. By accounting for these changes in world views, contemporary researchers are empowered to better understand the present and envision the future through multiple perspectives rather than the singular world view of the present.


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