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209 pages, Hardcover
First published August 30, 2011
We are already running the whole Earth, whether we admit it or not. To run it consciously and effectively, we must admit our role and even embrace it. We must temper our romantic notion of untrammeled wilderness and find room next to it for the more nuanced notion of a global, half-wild rambunctious garden, tended by us.Marris starts with the baseline problem. If you’re going to restore nature, what are you going to restore it to? It’s a standing joke that every environmentalist wants to keep every natural area exactly the way it was when they first saw it. And, to some extent, the baseline for restoration is “as we first saw it,” we being Europeans. But we've finally come to understand that what Europeans saw when they arrived wasn’t “virgin nature,” an “untouched wilderness.” It had been curated for thousands of years by the people who already lived there. So should the baseline be “before humans arrived on this hemisphere?” Or what? Once you realize that the very concept of “nature” in the goal of “restoring nature” is soft and arbitrary, the whole venture starts to become subject to debate. A section of the book is given over to documenting exactly how much ecological change goes on over the years. What you think of as the “natural” state of a given piece of land always has a date on it. It sure wasn’t that way if you look far enough back, as we all know from finding fossilized swamps in the desert.