Saturday, August 25, 2007

River Riparian Care

The ecological value of rivers needs to be protected. This is one of the principles of river care developed for the National Rivers Consortium (Phillips, Bennett & Moulton, 2001). Other principles include: the need to manage rivers in an ecologically sustainable manner to maintain biodiversity, natural stream flow, and to ensure the benefits of rivers for future generations. But what is missing? Intrinsic value - the value of the river in its own right, outside of human use.

Stephen Kellert, who along with E. O Wilson developed the biophilia hypothesis, created a useful typology of values about the human relationship with the natural environment. Among the values he lists are - Utilitarian (human/resource use), Aesthetic (scenic beauty), Scientific, Moralistic (spiritual and ethical), Humanistic (love and emotion), Symbolic (communication/myth about nature), Dominionistic (control/power over) and Negativistic (fear and aversion of nature). These values expand the emphasis on the strictly economic approach which allocates a monetary value to places and natural environments. Such a narrow approach overlooks the emotional, social, educational, recreational, spiritual dimensions of nature loving and river connecting. Kellert's values indicate that the natural world has significance beyond the focus of governments, planners, developers, industry.

Surveys on attitudes towards river care have singled out the need for pollution reduction, habitat restoration, improvement of aesthetic and recreational amenity especially in relation to spaces for 'relaxing, walking and enjoying views' (see Cassagrande, 1997:72), and a deep concern about ecologically-unaware development in addition to the all-too-unthinking destruction of natural capital. The range of studies also shows that people are more inclined to connect with the natural environment when it is looked after, where it is beautiful (and wild), and where they can feel a sense of wellbeing and happiness.

This is also the story for people who love the Brisbane River. Joy to the river.

Cassagrande D, 1997, Interdisciplinary Restoration: Values, Perceoptions, and Restoration Goals, Bulletin 100, Centre for Coastal and Watershed Systems, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Phillips N, J Bennett and D. Moulton, 2001, Principles and Tools for Protecting Australian Rivers, Canberra, Land & Water. Australia.