Grieving for the Past and Hoping for the Future: Balancing Polarizing Perspectives in Conservation and Restoration


Address correspondence to R. J. Hobbs, email


I consider the possibility that people engaged in conservation and management of species and ecosystems are experiencing grief related to ongoing loss of species, assemblages, ecosystem integrity, and so on. In human psychology, five stages of the grieving process have been identified, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although presented as a series of stages, it is recognized that the progression through them is not linear and people can move quickly among them or experience more than one at any one time. I then consider whether current polarized debates in conservation and restoration, for instance in relation to non-native species and novel ecosystems, result in part from people operating from different places in the grief spectrum. Throughout the grieving process, hope remains a constant feature, and it is important to recognize the place of hope in motivating and sustaining people engaged in conservation and restoration. Although restoration provides great hope that losses can be minimized and, in some cases, reversed, this hope needs to be grounded in a realistic assessment of what is possible in a rapidly changing world.