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  • Cited by 12
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

10 - Representing nature



If I want to speak on behalf of orange-bellied parrots whose habitat will be destroyed by a proposed development, in what sense can I act as their political representative? I have no basis upon which to claim I am their delegate because I have no mandate or authorisation from parrots to speak on their behalf and I cannot justify my arguments or actions to them. I have no expertise in ornithology and I do not (I hope) resemble a parrot or share or understand a parrot's view of the world to claim authority to speak on the basis of a common parrot identity. Nor can I claim to be their trustee in the Burkean sense, because Burke disingenuously supposed that the trustee's authority to represent his/her constituency was based upon common interests and sympathies that were reciprocal, not one-way. All I can claim is that I care about the fate of the parrots.

This chapter seeks to explore the idea of representing (non-human) nature as a democratic task that involves persuading others to care about not just parrots but non-human species in general in order to support measures for their protection. Michael Saward has called this discursive task ‘representative claim making’, but I shall call it ‘nature advocacy’ (Saward 2006). Like the legal advocate, the nature advocate seeks to speak for someone or something by putting their case in the best possible light.

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