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The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  219 ratings  ·  37 reviews
A paradigm shift is roiling the environmental world. For decades people have unquestioningly accepted the idea that our goal is to preserve nature in its pristine, pre-human state. But many scientists have come to see this as an outdated dream that thwarts bold new plans to save the environment and prevents us from having a fuller relationship with nature. Humans have chan ...more
Hardcover, 209 pages
Published August 30th 2011 by Bloomsbury USA
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Rambunctious Garden represents a kind of postmodern coming-of-age for the restoration ecology movement. Most readers interpret the book as a straightforward critique of the movement and its ideas, and the often condescending tone Marris takes lends itself to that reading. Viewed through that lens, most of the book seems to be looking down on someone, but it's never clear on whom and from where. It's each of the critiques that Morris explores was developed by a member of the conservation communit ...more
Well told and very convincing.

A few passages I liked:

"Everything has been tainted. Nature as a separate thing has ended. For environmentalists like McKibben, the pristineness rule has been made very strict. A single rusty hubcap tucked under the ferns, a wildfire observation station visible on the horizon, a species moved, an atmosphere heated, a forest felled two hundred years ago—it doesn’t take much to chase away 'nature' if nature must be perfectly 'untouched' or 'pristine.' Having erected
Dec 12, 2013 Ryan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: nature
This book is controversial, but deliberately so I think, in trying to attract attention from conservationists and more readers. The premise is that we should not only concentrate on preserving so called pristine wilderness areas, as firstly there is really no such thing in the Anthropocene where human activities have impacted every inch of the planet. Reading the negative reviews before reading the book, I started with some trepidation, but it ended up being not as bad as I thought. Yes, 'true' ...more
Well done, indeed. It's one of those "everything you know is wrong" books, and it lays out fact after fact to help convince you. Perhaps the most striking revelation for me (and I'm admittedly slow to notice stuff) was that the "pristine wilderness" concept of conservation is a myth. And has been a myth since the ascent of man. So much so that any return of the wilderness to a pristine state is completely out of the question because there's no way to know what it looked like then. The case for m ...more
Thomas Cook
For someone like me, who came of age celebrating the idea of wilderness, this book was a refreshing rethink of the relationship humanity has to nature. The book is not a scientific tome (though it is referenced) and its short length and journalistic writing makes for a quick read; but the return on the time spent is high. Emma Marris provides a quick review, and debunking, of the notions of unchanging and pristine nature that have dominated much of our thinking for at least the last 50 years. Sh ...more
The author discusses some very interesting points when it comes to natural resource management and our expectations and assumptions. Many important topics are covered. The examples were thought provoking and I can even say they shifted my view of managing lands and species to some extent. I'll be honest, the first half of the book was more fun to read than the second half. One thing that really bothered was that relatively early in the book the author mentioned the "flightless" nene goose of Haw ...more
A thought-provoking read on ecology and the stewardship of our earth. It never occurred to me before to question the philosophy that nature would be best if humans had never touched it—to try to get it back to some sort of pre-European state. But perhaps the goal of having most of the world as untouched wilderness is impossible, and I love the alternatives that Emma Maris points out in this book.
This is an excellent book. It is science, well researched, and written for a diverse and wide audience inclusive of those who simply appreciate nature, as well as home gardeners, land owners, farmers, city planners, landscapers, horticulturalists, environmentalists, conservationists right on up to ecologists.

Even if you don't have a garden, indoor plants or green space of your own, I highly recommend The Rambunctious Garden to you for reading. It was a surprise to me when the book ended but tha
Sara Van Dyck
This book opened my eyes in terms of thinking about how humans and nature can co-exist. Chapters two through five discussed issues in restoration – if trees are theatened by climate change, should we move them to a cooler habitat? - which I found mildly interesting and went through rapidly. But chapter one and the last few chapters explain in detail how we might look differently at “nature” and how a new understanding might enable us to save more and to enrich what we do have. If a still contami ...more
In the end, Emma Marris writes that she was was told not to write a book unless she was truly passionate about the subject. In reading "Rambunctious Garden" you can have no doubt about Marris's passionate for the topic of nature and wilderness in a world in which it is hard to find any corner left untouched by humanity. At the end of each chapter I found myself writing down places I wanted to visit and sensing a longing to join with the assorted crew of conservation biologists and ecologists Mar ...more
DeLene Beeland wrote that Rambunctious Garden is “Potentially the most optimistic and controversial work about the future of nature to appear in years.” I don’t know about the optimistic part—pages of the book left me feeling utterly deflated, but I whole-heartedly agree with the controversial part. Reading Rambunctious Garden is akin to embarking on an intellectual and philosophical rumination over what comprises the concepts of nature, wilderness, and conservation. The ground Emma Marris covers, fi ...more
Mary Catelli
A fascinating look at ecosystems in the world as it actually exists. The one where elk chose to give birth next to highways because of the lesser number of bears.

All the difficulties in the classic model of an ecosystem that stays the same forever with interactions. Even the addition of "disturbance" with the theory that the forest could, say, have regions regrowing from forest fire was not enough. There are forests that look primordial, but have trees that could grow for a millennium, where non
"Restoring the complex ecosystems we have destroyed may be, at the moment, just too hard. We don't know enough about what they looked like or how they worked. Our restoration projects may be too small, in many cases, to capture the complex processes we have lost. We can't get the magic back. The alternative, says Palmer, is not to restore some notional and incompletely apprehended past but to design or engineer for specific, measurable goals"

This is from the end part of a book that I found prett
I picked this book up because of my abiding interest in urban ecology and revisioning what we mean by the word "nature." I found Marris' writing to be very easy to comprehend, the flow was easy and built well, and each chapter tackled a different but complementary subject within the rapidly evolving world of ecology. She discusses much more than urban ecology but all of her topics (whether it's assisted migration or introducing cheetahs and elephants to North America) center around the topic of ...more
I did not feel that the book was as optimistic as the other reviews had noted. Basically the author seemed disparing of efforts of wildlife habitat restoration.
Should we nurture nature or foster the new acknowledge and foster ecosystems human activity has created?
Kristin Pederson
Really interesting take on re-orientation in the study of ecology and what it means for management of space.
Interesting concepts for rethinking our approach to the natural world.
M. Mangan
Many scientists and environmental science writers that I respect suggested that this book was worth reading. They were correct. Marris provides a well-documented assessment of our perceptions of what "natural" areas are, and how those perceptions may not always be helpful to us as we try to decide on strategies to conserve or restore natural areas.

She really makes you think about what the historical baselines actually mean, and asks us to consider other ways to live with our environment rather t
A lot of information, but somewhat dry.
John Holmes
Jan 10, 2015 John Holmes marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-list
333.9516 MAR
Rachael Korinek
I received this book through a first reads giveaway.
I liked the book and the author's style. It's refreshing to hear a conservationist discuss invasive species, habitat reconstruction, and nature preserves in a less idealistic and more realistic manner. A good read for anyone who enjoys a fresh perspective on a long-debated issue.
Really good in part, but the conflating of ecology and community ecology and ignoring the long integration of people in ecosystems and systems ecology (esp. by such influential ecologists HT & Eugene Odum) weakens the book and its arguement. Well written.
Beth Harper
Amazing. Game-changing. Wow. Where was this book when I was writing my undergrad thesis?

Buying a copy for myself to re-read and refer to, and a copy for my local public library, because seriously, it's that important.
Zack Hemond
This started out as a book that I thougth I would just keep agreeing with. Turns out it really pushed my in some significant ways. The idea of what constitutes "native species" was particularly thought provoking.
Have any moral or ecological questions about the ethics of "assisted migration"? This book provides a starting place for a discussion between scientists and ordinary people who want to do the right thing.

Best book I've read in a while. Really interesting and thought provoking. I'm not sure I agree with every point the author makes but I really like the attempt to get people discussing these issues.
Some interesting insight to the science of ecology and the business of conservation. I like her proposal that environmental care should be bottom-up, small-scale and wide-spread...
Sad case of anthropocentrism - deep ecology perspective on nature is not discussed, human domination over non-human species is accepted and celebrated
Chris Hamby
A great starting place for thinking about conservation in the 21st century. Written like an extended magazine article, with all the good and bad that entails.
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