In my article Restorative Justice and Environmental Crime, I describe how restoration of the natural environment can be one of the outcomes of restorative justice interventions in cases of environmental crime. The defendant agrees to restore the natural environment harmed by his/her actions or, if this is not possible, to restore environments elsewhere by means of compensation. If we understand crime as a violation of relationships, restoring the physical environment not only benefits affected communities but also provides the defendant with the opportunity to restore his/her damaged relationship with the land.
Thinking about the possibilities of environmental restoration, I remembered John Liu's documentary Green Gold, which documents large-scale ecosystem restoration projects in China, Africa and the Middle East. The restoration of 35,000 square kilometers of formerly desertified land in the Loess Plateau (Central China) from a barren and eroded ground into an oasis made a huge impression on environmental filmmaker John Liu - and on many viewers, including myself. Liu realized humans could restore ecosystems, rather than only destroying them, and decided to dedicate his life to explore the potential of ecosystem restoration.
To this end, in 2017 Liu founded Ecosystem Restoration Camps, a worldwide grassroots movement that aims to restore damaged ecosystems on a large scale. At these camps, volunteers learn how to restore degraded land and support farmers in transitioning to regenerative agriculture, which also sequesters excess carbon in our atmosphere. Volunteers get the chance to reconnect with the natural world and become 'agents of change' as they bring this knowledge back into their home towns and cities.
I hope that the Ecosystem Restoration Camps will continue to grow and benefit from the upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Liu's initiative, grounded in science and build on successes, gives me real hope that indeed 'humans can be part of the solution rather than the problem'. A welcome message amidst the daily floods of alarming environmental news.
Image credits: Loess Plateau by Environmental Restoration Camps.
Sat, 10 November