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The Spectrum of Human-Nature Interactions: Exploitation to Preservation

If we’ve learned anything from our class this past semester, it is that humans are inextricably linked to the natural world.  What we are just beginning to holistically understand, however, is that we as humans have the ability to regulate and manage how we interact with our surroundings. The ways in which we interact with nature can be visualized as a spectrum, with exploitation and preservation as the two extremes:


Though commonly used interchangeably, preservation is an overarching term that encompasses conservation efforts.  Preservation, at its most extreme, seeks to eliminate human impact on nature by protecting biodiversity and ecosystem integrity through isolation.  Examples of preservation include nature reserves and wilderness areas, where biodiversity in ecosystems remain intact. Conservation, on the other hand, refers to the proper use and regulation of how humans use and interact with nature.  Conservation is best demonstrated through rainforest protection initiatives and ‘Big Game’ wildlife refuges, where regulations on how humans interact with their surroundings may either be relaxed or regulated.  Finally, the notion of human exploitation refers to the use of nature for economic or social gain.  These actions may include anything as harmless as a photograph for aesthetic purposes to the over-logging of forested land.

This spectrum is not intended to necessarily declare one category of the spectrum as better than another, and it certainly does not highlight the blurred activities within each category.  It’s intent, rather, is to raise awareness about the need to understand and consciously decide how we interact with the natural world.  We have the ability to decide how we want to related to our surroundings, and engagement in this conscious activity will be of utmost importance in the development of future enterprise, policy agendas, and biodiversity efforts.

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