June 21-24 2021 is the week of the 9 th World Conference on Ecological Restoration. Organized by the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), the conference brings together 1,300 participants from 68 countries to share knowledge and innovations on how to sustain and facilitate biodiversity and reverse degradation of land and ecosystems. 

The conference takes place at the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, recently proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. It will run from 2021 through 2030, and is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. The ambition is to restore 1 billion hectares of degraded lands worldwide.

Much of the conference is concerned with improving the practice of ecological restoration, and the sessions e.g. discuss best practices for mine site restoration, techniques to treat soil pollution, or how to enhance the recovery of drained wetlands. Besides such rather technical aspects, a very important message in this conference is that ecological restoration is not only about restoring nature, it is also about restoring our relationship to nature.

In her opening keynote, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Distinguished Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, made this one of her central claims: 

“Repair of ecosystem structure and function alone is insufficient – restoration of a respectful, reciprocal relationship to the natural world is also essential for long term success […]. In many cases it is not only the land that has been broken, it’s our relationship to land that has been broken. So our work in restoration needs to heal [that] relationship, as well as the land.”

From her point of view, traditional ecological knowledge and the worldview and values of indigenous people can provide guidance for reaching this aim. She pointed out that many indigenous cultures have quite a different approach to sustainability. Western definitions of “sustainability” imply the aim to guarantee availability of natural resources for decades to come – it is about taking all the time. A more valuable approach, instead, would be a reciprocal one: Sustainable land use should involve taking and giving.

Image source:

Photo by Ritvik Singh on Unsplash

Event Visual SER 2021

PD Dr. Tina Heger

Fields of Expertise: Biodiversity Research, Ecological Theory