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The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World Hardcover – August 30, 2011
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“Potentially the most optimistic and controversial work about the future of nature to appear in years.” ―Grist.com
“Marris… challenges us to revisit the definition of nature in our increasingly unnatural world.” ―Nature
“Ms Marris's book is an insightful analysis of the thinking that informs nature conservation.” ―Economist
“May be the most important book about the environment in a generation.” ―Idaho Statesman
“Marris argues that the conservation and appreciation of nature can take place at far less exotic locations, such as backyards, city parks, farms, and even parking lots....This gracefully written and well-argued book deserves a wide readership.” ―Reason
“[Marris] doesn't just dwell in the imperfections of the past. She also offers forward-looking innovations.” ―Mother Jones
“Seamlessly intertwining lyrical travelogue with ecological science…[Marris] champions a controversial approach to conservation.” ―Discover
“Into her lively reporting, [Marris] weaves a fascinating story of the history of environmentalism and the controversies that occupy it today. It's a stimulating examination of the questions of stewardship and the future of our delicate planet that will challenge any simple answers.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Conservationists have long thought that the goal of ecological restoration should be a return to prehuman conditions, but, as Marris points out, this may not be the wisest course of action. Profiling a heroic new breed of conservationists who are exploring inventive methods for managing wildlife in all its forms, Marris showcases hopeful new concepts and constructive new practices.” ―Booklist
“Insightful, probing and well-written, Rambunctious Garden is a look at the often-overlooked players of the modern ecology and conservation movement.” ―Grid
“Covering the world of ecology and conservation from the ancient forests of Poland to the urban waterways of Seattle, Washington, Marris calls for a new kind of conservation that eschews the defensive stance of the past and embraces the challenges of acknowledging, understanding, protecting, and restoring the nature of the present and the future. This is a thought-provoking book that should be widely read and more widely discussed.” ―Kent H. Redford, director, Wildlife Conservation Society
“In Rambunctious Garden, Emma Marris weeds through a jungle of ecological dogma, yanking and hacking at our most cherished perceptions of Nature's purity. Marris asks us to look beyond the black-and-white world of pest and weed versus native and natural. And to humbly accept our duty, as tenders of a garden rambunctious beyond our ken, but not beyond our care.” ―William Stolzenburg, author of Rat Island and Where the Wild Things Were
“This is reality-based ecology at its best. It leads to far better science and conservation practices than the ideology of pristine ecosystems ever could.” ―Stewart Brand, author of Whole Earth Discipline
“Great environmental books tell a story and change our thinking―Emma Marris has written such a book. She shows conservation a way out of its sullen addiction to the parable of relentless decline, and offers instead a vision of a lively nature―poking itself rambunctiously into every human habitat and finding ways to run free in those rare places where humans do not step quite so heavily. I am hoping that everyone who works in conservation or somehow supports or cares about conservation and nature reads this book. It is Rachel Carson for the twenty-first Century.” ―Peter Kareiva, chief scientist, The Nature Conservancy
About the Author
Emma Marris grew up in Seattle, Washington. Since 2004, she has written for the world's foremost science journal, Nature, on ecology, conservation Biology and other topics. Her articles have also appeared in Wired, the Christian Science Monitor, and Conservation. She currently lives in Columbia, Missouri, with her husband and daughter.
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More About the Author
Her magazine stories have appeared in Conservation, Wired, Grist, Slate, OnEarth and above all, Nature, where she worked as a staffer between 2004 and 2007.
Top Customer Reviews
Marris espouses the anthropocentric perspective that the Earth is more or less a resource cookie jar for humans--to be used carefully to be sure--but she doesn't really question whether ethically or ecologically this is ultimately a good idea.
Marris is a cheerleader for the dangerous concept that humans are both intelligent enough and wise enough to "manage" the Earth--the `smart resource management' school of thought. She is a prime example of the kind person biologist David Ehrenfeld had in mind when he wrote his book the Arrogance of Humanism. Embrace weeds, we are told. Assemble new designer ecosystems that can flourish with human activities. Increased economic growth is not seen as a problem, rather an opportunity to work with industry for the betterment of nature.
She sees this prospect of human dominance of global ecosystems as uplifting and joyful, as explained here from her website.
"We argue that the Anthropocene-the epoch marked by widespread human influence-is not by definition a disaster, and that accepting the scope of man's changes to the Earth can set the stage not for hopelessness, but for a more hopeful environmental movement. I hope it gets people who have been feeling gloomy about Earth thinking, active, even optimistic again.Read more ›
I found the arguments against the standard "pre-European" baseline especially compelling. She argues that anthropogenic climate change is nothing new and the effects of human action can be seen even 10,000 years ago when the human populations in the Americas drove gigantic, methane emitting, herbivores to extinction. When neolithic man can change climate so greatly, simply rolling back the wilderness clock to a time before Europeans showed up in the Americas seems pretty arbitrary. She also provided me a better understanding of what kind of wildernes those Europeans colonists encountered when they arrived. Many people think of that environment as an untrammeled paradise but there was a huge and advanced civilization in the Americas with a population to rival Europe. The Europeans didn't see this because of disease. I took that to mean that the pristine wilderness those explorers saw was more like a vacant lot that had recently been overrun by weeds. That is what happens when disturbed or cultivated land suddenly falls out of use. Making a weed filled vacant lot your baseline seems hard to justify.
So where does that leave us? Apparently with a lot of tough questions that can't be easily answered with, "before Europeans or before humans". However, even when presenting the panoply of choices, the author makes the process seem hopeful and exciting. Maybe the best way forward is simply to tend the garden that is all around us well.
It is this tendency for Marris to overstep her ability to fairly critique the thousands of conservation projects that requires readers to read critically. Readers should note a number of ridiculous suggestions. They should read with an awareness that biased language is used to try to make some arguments stronger than they are. Readers need to beware the author's tendency to rely on outlier, or even contrarian, voices that question well-accepted positions in order to provoke a discussion, while those voices mostly offer little of value as alternatives.
There are many sections in this book with useful information that could help us keep life on earth for the future. I am glad she uses 1491 and other great books of the past two decades to reinforce our awareness that pre-European Americas had human influence. to set goals based on what we hope for the future, rather than making a questionable baseline be the goal. I am grateful to Marris for her recommendations that every place that is conserved should have clear goals with measurable criteria - so we can decide if they are working, or not.
But Marris shows poor judgment in throwing out the preservation of species as one of those measures. The use of DNA to dictate changes to taxonomy is in its infancy, with tens of thousands of genes yet to be analyzed in even commonly known plants.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Marris has no training as a scientist or an ecologist--only as a publicist and self-promoter. Her views are ignorant and arrogant. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mary
This book is not about saving nature...it seems more about justifying a human reinterpretation of "nature".Published 2 months ago by 12Junes
It has been said much more eloquently in other reviews but this book made me uneasy the whole way through and I feel like this sort of book is dangerous for the natural world. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Allan Davis
A good overview of new ways to conceptualize ecology in the Anthropocene.Published 5 months ago by K. Hornbach
One of the best roadmaps into the Anthropocene so far. Everyone should read this book and start gardening our planet.Published 6 months ago by Steve Heimel
This book is remarkable - I would say seminal. Written by a naturalist who is a true nature lover - as opposed to an antihumanist - the book brilliantly refutes the static view of... Read morePublished 8 months ago by R. Zubrin
Great book for those in conservation today. Gives perspectives on how conservation has or should change in the face of a non-wild America.Published 10 months ago by Dawn S. Williams