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The Social Siege of Nature: A Response to Deconstructionism

The deconstructionist view asserts that all we can ever perceive about the world are shadows; we can never escape our particular biases and fixed historical and cultural positions. With this in mind, the natural world as described by scientists and conservationists is a human artifact produced by our economic activities and as such is grist for material reshaping, exploitation, and tinkering with what little remains of the wilderness. Michael Soule, along with Gary Lease, in the book Reinventing Nature: Responses to Postmodern Deconstructionism (1995) seek to oppose these views. Soule argues that the world, including its living components, really does exist apart from humanity's perceptions. In spite of differences among us in class, culture, gender, and historical perspective, we can gain dependable, scientific knowledge about this independent, natural world.

After graduating from San Diego State University, Soule received his advanced degrees from Stanford University, where he concentrated in population and evolutionary biology under Paul Ehrlich. He has done field work in Africa, Samoa, Australia, Yugoslavia, Mexico, and the West Indies and has held teaching positions in Malawi and at the University of Michigan. Currently, Soule is chair of environmental studies and director for the Center for Biodiversity Analysis and Management at UC Santa Cruz. His research interests include studies of morphological and genetic variation in natural populations of animals, island biogeography, and conservation biology.

The founder and first president of the Society for Conservation Biology and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Soule brings with him a depth of knowledge and understanding concerning the natural world. His expertise in biological diversity lends itself to the consultation of many agencies and organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. National Parks Service, Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service, the OTA, EPA UNEP, FAO, UNESCO, WWF-US, and the NAS/NRC.