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Rewilding, Assisted Migration, Ecological Restoration, and More,
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This review is from: The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (Hardcover)
"Rambunctious Garden" is the the most important conservation biology book thus far in the 21st century. I'm an active participant in, and advocate for, two of the leading-edge conservation options Emma Marris covers in her book: assisted migration and Pleistocene rewiding. I can attest that she not only got those topics "right", but I learned even more. Adding that to my experience of deep learning in the rest of the less familiar chapters, I came away with a full and enthusiastic "yes" to her notion of "rambunctious garden." I now see a vast landscape of distinct paths in conservation all interweaving within a robust, necessary, and alluring paradigm shift that offers cultural gifts to our species and lifeways while doing a better, more flexible and peacefully questing job in protecting our furred, feathered, scaled, sun-powered, and lignified kin in this grand and ongoing epic of evolution.
As well, as a science writer myself (evolution and ecology), I applaud this book for showcasing the vital role that science writers play. (Note: This is Connie Barlow writing this review, not my husband, Michael Dowd, whose Amazon account I share.) That role is far more than sorting through the science and presenting it in understandable and inspiring ways, which at least a few scientists in every field are masters of. Rather, no participant scientist can faithfully present the contrarian views during the rambunctious time of a paradigm shift in their particular field. Marris doesn't hide the fact that she is not only intrigued by but inclined toward this new way of viewing human-Earth interactions. But as to how the shift in perspective and possibility actually ought to play out on the ground -- well, for that, she lets the actors (scientists, land managers, and citizen activists) speak for themselves.
My only misgiving is that, not surprisingly, two classic conservation goals may appear to be cast aside in the early chapters: the goals of wilderness protection and prevention of species extinctions. But read on. In the last third of the book, where Marris brings the new pathways into a landscape view of the paradigm shift overall, those two classic goals are seen to maintain a vital presence in the now patchier quilt of conservation biology. And from my perspective, each will likely turn out to be even better cared for (tended), if they too are allowed to evolve in form and function.
As a long-time wilderness and biodiversity activist of the boomer generation, I see myself on both sides of the paradigm shift -- exultantly rambunctious in some areas, but deeply rooted and perhaps too unbending in others. But thankfully we all eventually die, and it will be the next generations who choose which of our contributions will carry forward. And here is where writers who preference the "pristine" need to continue to wax nostalgic and pass those deep memories and emotional responses forward. Those of us who watched the mayfly hatch in Michigan this spring with not a single bat zigging through the swarm know in our bones that something precious was missing. So along with Emma Marris's book on our shelf (or Kindle), there should always be a place for Darwin, Leopold, Krutch, Eiseley, Carson, Lopez, Tempest Williams, and fellow expositors of near-pristine nature during their own times. Let us never become autistic to the diminishing sounds and sights of spring -- simply because the change is less pronunced over the span of a single life. Only then will "rambunctious" not open the door to loss.