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Why Should We Save Nature's Hidden Gems?

Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


Aesthetic preservation is the idea of sparing natural areas from development because of their aesthetic value. In this article I discuss a problem for aesthetic preservation that I call the ‘hidden gems problem’: in certain cases, the natural area under consideration is so remote and/or fragile that few people can actually experience it. In these cases, it becomes unclear how nature's aesthetic value can justify its preservation when development promises practical human benefits. After rejecting some potential responses to the hidden gems problem, I offer a different solution. I argue that we have an aesthetic reason to preserve nature's hidden gems because they are required to produce ‘true judges’ of aesthetic value, who are capable of improving the general quality of taste for landscape. I develop this argument using the example of recent preservationist efforts to save the isolated landscape of Sable Island, Nova Scotia.