From ‘Which Nature’ to ‘Whose Nature’? Ecological Restoration and Its Recent Urban Complications



multi-species justice, ecological restoration, wetlands, rewilding




This paper presents insights from a sabbatical research project that problematizes the different ways in which planners, policy makers, and activists in California and Germany propose to “restore” nature and enhance the ecological functions of urban waterscapes like rivers and wetlands in the name of urban resilience-building and greening. My two main case study examples are the (still court-embattled) Ballona Wetlands Ecological Restoration Project near my current home in Los Angeles and the (recently completed and largely celebrated) 30-year renaturalization of the Emscher river in the German Ruhr Valley, with a particular focus on developments in my hometown of Dortmund. The entire field of restoration ecology is still a relatively new science and practice with intense accompanying ethical debates over which nature is to be restored. I will review and bring this important literature in conversation with reinvigorated debates in urban political ecology over whose nature is to be restored, focusing on recent contributions centered around multi-species justice and urban rewilding. My two case studies confirm that state-sponsored projects typically still privilege human interests over conflicting claims to urban spaces by more-than human lifeforms. 

Author Biography

  • Deike Peters, Soka University of America

    Associate Professor of Environmental Planning and Practice


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