In a recent issue of the New Yorker I learned that the current head of the Nature Conservancy is a “new conservationist” who’s butting heads with “traditional conservationists.” Also termed “eco-pragmatism,” this growing attitude among environmentalists challenges the traditional goal of preserving nature in some pristine condition or returning it to a time when nature was presumed to be untouched by humans, a notion that’s been disproved. Plus, with climate change, there’s no place on Earth untouched by human intervention. Pragmatists (like Peter del Tredici) look to the eco-services rendered by nonnative species, rather than hoping for budgets large enough to get rid of them.
But traditionalists are having none of it. When new conservationist Emma Marris suggested at an ecology conference that we accept some nonnative species as legitimate parts of the ecosystem,” traditionalist E.O. Wilson responded, “Where do you plant that white flag you’re carrying?”
Around the same time I saw Marris mentioned in the New Yorker I noticed her again in Landscape Architecture Magazine making some sensible points in a book review, so I looked into her other writing, only to discover she’d authored this book whose cover looked familiar to me but I’d never read or heard much about in gardening circles.
Marris’s appearances on stage and in interviews, captured on Youtube, have made me even more eager for the arrival of my copy of her book.
Fascinating stuff! There’s also a trailer for Rambunctious Garden.
Then last weekend the New York Times published “Rethinking the Wild” about a “heresy echoing through America’s woods and wild places,” tossing out the hands-off approach to wild places in favor of a more “nuanced, flexible approach” that might could include nonnative species and even assisted migration. The author concludes, “In short, we need to accept our role as reluctant gardeners.”
Speaking of gardening, that’s how we create nature where we are, right? Gardeners are optimistic people, and Marris’s optimism is a refreshing change in the conversation.Posted by Susan Harris on July 11, 2014 at 7:41 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.