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

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  333 Ratings  ·  54 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 But many scientists have come to see this as an outdated dream that thwarts bold new plans to save the environment and prevents us from having a fuller relationship with nature.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 September 6th 2011 by Bloomsbury USA (first published August 30th 2011)
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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
Aug 19, 2012 Meghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2016 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The seeds of a good book are here, but too often the writer misunderstands human impact on nature as human control of nature:

We are already running he whole Earth, whether we admit it or not. To run it consciously and effectively, we must admit our role and even embrace it. [p.2]

Unintended consequences, anyone? The idea that because humans are arguably part of "Nature," anthropogenic change of pretty much any kind is no problem leads to some real clunkers, like the author's conviction that it is
Aug 18, 2012 Ryan rated it liked it
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
Nov 29, 2013 Melody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alyson Hagy
Jul 26, 2015 Alyson Hagy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clear and thoughtful book that has complicated my thinking about landscape. Recommended to me by an ornithologist and a journalist (both great readers of fiction), I find myself thinking about Marris as I bike through town, hike through thoroughly-used subalpine forest, and "tend" my struggling lawn. What might I do to create a more "rambunctious" space for other species? Pure wilderness doesn't truly exist, so what can any of us actually *do* during the short span of our lifetimes to support ...more
Aug 22, 2013 Dianna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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.
Aaron carrcallen
Aug 21, 2013 Aaron carrcallen rated it it was amazing
A positive new look at our roles as conservationists and gardeners on this planet.
Sarah Clement
This is one of those rare books where the author discusses controversial and somewhat complex ecological ideas in a way that is clear but engaging, and neither overly technical or in an overly literary style. Novel ecosystems are one of my central research interests these days, and Marris manages to capture the main points of the concepts relating novelty, wilderness, nativeness, etc. with just the right the level of detail. In a fairly brief book, she manages enough history and science to provi ...more
Lila Afifi
I really enjoyed Marris's opinion on wilderness conservation, she takes a more anthropocentric view but more stresses the idea that wilderness is everywhere and should be conserved everywhere. A very valuable read.
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
DeLene Beeland
Dec 26, 2012 DeLene Beeland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition 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
Mar 26, 2016 eldaldo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another ecology book for me. I heartily enjoyed it. The book gave good overviews of current topics in ecology, which could have been the subtitle. It came to similar conclusions about the futility of "restoration ecology" as I had been cultivating in my own brain over the past year or so. If there was a downside to the book it was that most of the information came from interviews with researchers rather than from particular studies. I would have liked more research and data rather than just opin ...more
Sep 03, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: project_2012
"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
Sara Van Dyck
Aug 12, 2013 Sara Van Dyck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Thomas Cook
Mar 02, 2015 Thomas Cook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 08, 2013 Logan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2013 Marit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 11, 2014 Maggie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2014 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Adam Hinterthuer
I love a lot of the big ideas in this book and it helped me wrap my head around the shift in conservation ecology and what a "natural" baseline for anything really is. But it was a "read in fits and starts" thing for me. I like a little more literary narrative in my non-fiction and the narrative here sometimes gets bogged down by information. I realize Marris is crafting an argument and, essentially, using quotes form scientists as her citations to uphold that argument, and I appreciate that - i ...more
May 04, 2016 Kristen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderfully written book about far-reaching effects of how we, as a society, view "nature" and "wilderness". It is especially important as we start considering the remediation of post-industrial sites, large-scale conservation efforts, and the effects of climate change on ecological functions.
Probing the current best practices of ecological remediation and conservation, Emma Marris questions what it means to "remediate" - to restore an area to past conditions. She proposes looking tow
M. Mangan
Sep 07, 2012 M. Mangan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
This book certainly raises some hackles, and it's understandable to see why. It gives off a rather hopeless air about conservation. However, it does raise good discussion points about realistic conservation projects in an ever-expanding world. It seems to be very one-sided - it is making a specific point rather than weighing both sides of the issue - so I would not take it as the gospel truth. But if you are looking for critical thinking or discussion points, this book certainly raises plenty of ...more
Claire Meints
When we thing of nature, so often we think of the wild. A forest, untouched by humans, a desert, a river. Yet, through our thousands of years of influence on the planet, driving and building and emitting in every part of the world, there is no place that is truly wild. Emma Marris takes on this challenge to our idea of nature and wildness, and explores the potential of treating our Earth as a garden, caring for it, as we are now inextricable from its future.
Rachael Korinek
Aug 21, 2013 Rachael Korinek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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.
Marvin King
For people like myself who know relatively little about how to rambunctiously garden, I needed more concrete steps to take. I finished the book thinking, "wow, all this is great, but what the hell do I do?"
Zack Hemond
Feb 28, 2013 Zack Hemond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 16, 2013 Ljonz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Mar 29, 2012 Torsten rated it really liked it
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.
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