“Nature is almost everywhere,” the science journalist Emma Marris writes in Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (Bloomsbury). “But wherever it is, there is one thing nature is not: pristine.” Marris’ message will discomfort many environmental activists, who are often in thrall to the damaging cult of pristine wilderness and the false ideology of nature’s balance. But it should encourage and inspire the rest of us.
Marris shows that humanity has created rambunctious, novel ecosystems across the globe that often harbor more biodiversity than pristine ones. She acknowledges that choosing to conserve some areas as “pristine” with regard to some preferred aesthetic baseline is OK. But she argues that such areas are essentially wilderness gardens maintained by only “perpetual weeding and perpetual watching.” We should widen the scope of our appreciation to the actual nature found all around us, she writes. Conservation should be seen not as “restoration” but as a kind of “rambunctious gardening.”