Landscape Ecology

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 239–250

The appearance of ecological systems as a matter of policy

  • Joan Iverson Nassauer

DOI: 10.1007/BF00129702

Cite this article as:
Nassauer, J.I. Landscape Ecol (1992) 6: 239. doi:10.1007/BF00129702


Environmental policy should explicitly address the appearance of the landscape because people make inferences about ecological quality from the look of the land. Where appearances are misleading, failing to portray ecological degradation or ecological health, public opinion may be ill-informed, with consequences for environmental policy. This paper argues that while ecology is a scientific concept, landscape perception is a social process. If we do not recognize this difference, we have problems with the appearance of ecological systems. Three influential problems are discussed: 1) the problem of the false identity of ecological systems, 2) the problem of design and planning as deceit about ecological systems, and 3) the problem of invisible ecological systems. These problems for environmental policy may be resolved in part if landscape planners and policy-makers use socially-recognized signs to display human intentions for ecological systems. Specifically, planning and policy can include socially-recognized signs of beauty and stewardship to display human care for ecological systems. An example in United States federal agricultural policy is described.

Copyright information

© SPB Academic Publishing bv 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan Iverson Nassauer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Landscape ArchitectureUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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