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The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature's Salvation

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  430 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Named one of the best books of 2015 by The Economist

A provocative exploration of the “new ecology” and why most of what we think we know about alien species is wrong

For a long time, veteran environmental journalist Fred Pearce thought in stark terms about invasive species: they were the evil interlopers spoiling pristine “natural” ecosystems. Most conservationists and en
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Beacon Press (first published April 2nd 2015)
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Terragyrl3 Maybe nuance is not called for in the early rounds of shifting public thought about an established attitude. I have just begun to read this book, but …moreMaybe nuance is not called for in the early rounds of shifting public thought about an established attitude. I have just begun to read this book, but I couldn't resist reading the article for which you posted a link. I plan to revisit when I finish the book, too. Thank you for making it available.
I agree with you that some people could take this new thought as a get-out-jail-free card, one absolving them of any need for action.
I'm thinking the point of the book will be to reconcile ourselves to the environmental changes that are too widespread to reverse now. There is something perverse, after all, in 'environmentalists" drenching an entire island ecosystem with poison to kill the rodents.
Perhaps environmentalism--which is still a young science-- is following the same path that medicine did: at first we thought all bacteria were bad, but now we are somewhat humbled to admit the situation is nuanced (as you point out). Shifting people's thoughts, however, may take bold statements and extreme positions. (less)
Ian Not an answer to the question but one example where Fred has not checked his references...C1 P26 stating that "The Argentine ant arrived in New Zealan…moreNot an answer to the question but one example where Fred has not checked his references...C1 P26 stating that "The Argentine ant arrived in New Zealand in 1990 and marched across both the north and south islands in short order..." At best this is emotive. Worse, it is untrue. The 150 locations of the ants range were not actual locations in which the ant was found. Having worked on the monitoring and control programme in Christchurch (South Is), the ant was never widespread across both islands at all and to suggest that "officials set aside around $60 million a year to confront the ant army" is laughable. That figure was a predicted cost of controlling the ant population...this was never suggested as being a likely occurrence and did not even happen but Fred states that it was a fact. Talk about poor science? Poor interpretation to suit an argument perhaps?(less)

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Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nature
It is always interesting to read what Fred Pearce has to say, and I have great respect for his many years of investigative reporting on environmental and nature issues. He writes lucidly and the variety of locations from which he reports adds tremendously to the interest of his accounts.

Having already read two of his previous books, I noticed he tries to be deliberately controversial and contrarian in his views on these topics. Whether it is merely an attempt to generate more interest for his pu
Brian Clegg
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in the environment, a new book by Fred Pearce is always a red letter day, and never more so than with his new title on the bizarre portrayal of invasive species and how we need a very different picture of the 'balance of nature' and the environment.

I was a little worried when I first saw the book as it seemed to be treading very similar ground to Ken Thomson's Where Do Camels Belong? and there was certainly an overlap, as both cover the way that 'alien' species that come in
Peter Tillman
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-tech, at-bg-pa
This one started slow, but the pace picked up as Pearce got into less-familiar (to me) material. He makes good points, but there's a lot of repetition and, well, journalistic stuff. Over-egging the custard. “Sexing it up.” Here's the book I recommend instead of Pearce's, by a working biologist:

Pearce’s cheerleading for the “other side” is a little hard to judge. Way outside my area of expertise, but it rings true. Mostly. Provocative ideas, for sure. The
Sarah Clement
This is one of those books that challenges you to think differently about received wisdom, and it does it in a really beautiful, well-argued way. So although I don't necessarily agree with everything that Pearce says in this book, I am giving it 5 stars because I enjoyed every page of it, and I agreed with quite a lot.

This book is a bit like Where Do Camels Belong? if you have read that, but I actually prefer this book. This is in part because Pearce is a journalist (whereas Thompson is an ecol
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-read
There are two sets of people who love the Earth in all of its diversity and grandeur. The first set includes those who would keep it as it is and exclude the novel ecosystems established through the immigration of alien species. The second includes those who acknowledge that life is a process, ever changing, and acknowledge that it is through change that evolution happens. The two sets of people are at war with each other, and the environment suffers as a result of the disagreement. Invasion bio ...more
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
5 stars - not because I wholly agree with Mr. Pearce, but because I think this is a discussion that environmental professionals need to be having. As a 15+ year environmental professional, Ive been party to plenty of "invasives bad!/natives good! - but what do we classify as native?" type discussions. Ive seen species go from hero to goat during my career....

Im not entirely convinced that Invasives will be the "salvation" of nature, but I do firmly believe that there is no static state for ecosy
Huh. Well that was a head-scratcher but in a good way. If none of the land we think of as wild was actually wild, if all of it had been modified by human action, than what are we restoring? And if we are trying to maximize diversity, then shouldn't we allow invasives as long as they are not actually causing direct harm (like to bridges and dams and power stations and other human things) and not causing other species to actually become threatened? This was basically the idea behind this book. I'd ...more
Kim Stallwood
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The New Wild by Fred Pearce is a must-read book that challenges our thinking about nature and how to view the environment and the plants and animals who we share the Earth with.

Begin at the end with the author’s close for the last chapter:

“Nature never goes back; it always moves on. Alien species, the vagabonds, are the pioneers and colonists in this constant renewal. Their invasions will not always be convenient for us, but nature will re-wild in its own way. That is the new wild.” (p. 193)

Jeff Brown
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
The author’s premise is that invasive species are not the scourge they are made out to be, and are really a result of ecosystems weakened by reckless human behavior. A compelling argument is made, and even on a philosophical level it makes sense. Focusing on symptoms and ignoring causes is a common human failure. Think about it - with something like kudzu, what is a more likely explanation that is has overrun many areas in the US:

-It is some superweed that has defied all Darwinian constraints an
Gerald Kinro
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
I enjoyed the read but cannot say I agree with many of what Fred Pearce suggests. I live in the alien species capital of the world. In my career with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, I have seen both sides--the destruction caused by aliens and benefits they bring. For one, terrestrial native Hawaiian plants and animals are not suited for food. The former provide very little calories and protein. Aside from birds, arthropods and a single mammal (the Hawaiian hoary bat) there are no land-base ...more
Bill Leach
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 1836, Darwin visited Ascension Island and found it to be hideously naked. Since then plants and animals have been brought to the island from around the world, creating a truly unique ecosystem where 90 percent of the species are imports. In spite of it being quite functional, the interactions between the native and introduced species have not been studied. Ecologist Daniel Janzen coined the term "ecological fitting" where an ecosystem develops from the various species that move into it, rathe ...more
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’m sure there’s a good book to be written about 'invasive' species, but this certainly isn’t it. It seems to me Pearce had made his mind up from the beginning what his conclusion was going to be and was determined not to let facts, poor understanding or flawed arguments get in the way of stating it. My suspicions began to be confirmed where he claims that the decline of water voles was in part down to attempts to control muskrats. I can find nothing to support this assertion. He then claims the ...more
Brian Griffith
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, ecology
Are environmentalists commonly prejudiced? Do they practice environmental cleansing for the sake of environmental purity? Pearce gives a critical look at our latest wave of wars on plants and animals -- the supposedly ecological battles to eliminate foreign species, protect native life forms from competition, and perhaps restore pieces of the landscape to how they were at some point in the distant past. For Pearce, all of this bears a disturbing resemblance to our efforts at ethnic cleansing or ...more
Juliet Wilson
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
Subtitled Why Invasive Species will be Nature's Salvation this provocative book is sure to enrage some conservationists and cuase consternation among many organisations working in ecological restoration. It is however well worth reading even if you violently disagree with what Pearce says.

The main argument of the book is that we should stop worrying about invasive non native species and welcome them with open arms as the saviours of our degraded ecosystems. Now there are some species of non-nat
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rosemary by: Geoff Lawton
This book would benefit from some ruthless editing, but is so eye-opening that I'm still giving it 5 stars.

Fred Pearce convincingly shows that invasive species can be made the scapegoat for other environmental problems such as pollution and overgrazing. He also debunks scientific claims like that of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which states that invasive species are involved in "nearly 40 per cent of all animal extinctions for which the cause is known" (in this case he traces the r
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pearce challenges traditional ecology and conservation in this book. He argues that invasive species are beneficial and provide the raw material for the future in a planet undergoing great change.

He begins the book with several chapters detailing the wide range of invasions occurring around the globe. He masterfully captures the scope of what has become invasion biology. Along the way he plants the seed of his thesis by questioning the validity to traditional claims.

His next section delves more
Jim Kahn
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating and very encouraging read on the topic of invasive species. The author seeks to tone down the hysteria vis a vis 'invasive species' by convincingly making a few key points:

1. It is inevitable. Although we tend to think in very short terms, exotic species introduction has been going on for the entirety of the history of life via natural means, and via human means for tens of thousands of years. Quite simply, we do not have the tools to eradicate invasive species even from ve
There are times when it comes across that an author seems particularly impressed by their own cleverness. Fred Pearce is one of those authors, at least in this book. He starts off strong by asking a series of questions that are worthwhile pondering. Why do we blame invasive species for ruining habitat when often times it is really our fault for mucking things up? Is it just another form of xenophobia? Do invasive plants have a function beyond that, like in the rehabilitation of areas of environm ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: ecojournalism
I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars. 4 because the book wields a wealth or research to make a timely challenge to conventional wisdom in regard to wilderness and conservation. 3 because it lacks nuance (and intellectual humility) so much so that it may sanction a dangerous over-correction in the environmental outlook of lazy readers. I'm into nuance lately: 3 stars. I don’t need things to arrive at a fucking dialectical impasse but shades of gray are handy.

The challenge to conventional wisdom:
Alex Howard
So overall I do agree with the general message of this book, that nature is an changing process that should be allowed to evolve, but it felt very repetitive. Also, the author seems to have a weird obsession with trying to prove that he's got these revolutionary new ideas that 'conservationists' don't agree, but doesn't seem to understand that people disagreeing is a fundamental part of science? He does include some interesting examples, but all in all I didn't feel much motivation to finish it. ...more
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Far out. Wowza. I am impressed. Read this book and think about nature differently.
I borrowed this book from the library once before but didn't read it. I thought I would read it then & completely disagree with the author (know thy enemy) but I couldn't be bothered. Then I read eco-sinner & realised Fred Pearce is a very good environmental reporter so I looked at this book again with fresh eyes. Well I am bloody glad I did.
Yes, the world will be over run with rats, cats & rhododendrons. Yes
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fascinating (and necessary) challenge to our accepted ideas of nature, wildness, and environmentalism. Fred Pearce makes a case for invasives - first by arguing that, more often than not, they are scapegoats for our own environmental misdeeds, and that their actual impact is often far less than what we assume it to be; and second, that invasives and non-natives will be nature's future. In other words, in a world increasingly modified by human impacts, the species best able to surv ...more
Rosie Evans
May 12, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting and provocative look at the political side of conservationism which I feel makes some spurious assertions.
Whilst there were some interesting points, I felt the author missed opportunities to talk about the social history behind why attitudes in traditional conservation might be this way ie fortress conservation (a term first mentioned on page 249 of 250) and the moral climatology of the colonial era, and its legacy. He also seems to assume that conservationists advocating rewildi
Esther Marie
Mar 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I expected to hate this book immensely, but tried to read it with an open mind. As a history of some notable invasive species, it is a really interesting read. It is NOT, however, a book with especially good science. As I think some other reviewers have mentioned, Pearce criticizes the lack of scientific data related to management of certain invasives, but then turns around and makes wildly speculative statements of his own without any data to back himself up--come on; that's just bad writing an ...more
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Much of what Fred Pearce discusses in The New Wild represents the direction of restoration ecology and the pragmatism coming out of ecosystem researchers, like those studying island forests on the Canadian prairies - how to keep 'nature' as resilient and 'productive' as possible well into the future (for other species, but let's face it, mostly for humans). The time for 'purist' restoration/preservation/conservation perspectives may have passed, Pearce says.

My only concern with this book is that
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting and provocative book that challenges the conservation strategies employed almost worldwide. The author provides compelling evidence that our fight against "alien" species, in order to try to return to some imagined pristine environmental state where everything "belongs", is futile. True wildness, he argues, has always consisted of a changing cast of flora and fauna introduced by humans, animals, wind, weather and other naturally occurring events.
He makes a plea for this war on
Brendan Holly
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book problematizes a great deal of ecological common knowledge and teachings that persist throughout the world. Pearce questions the quasi-moral distinction between native and alien; points out that nature is not, nor has it ever been, stable and unchanging without humans; and calls into question most of the current conservation practices. I do not accept Pearce's arguments without pause, but this book greatly affected how I think about invasive ecology in the era of the Anthropocene. ...more
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not a fast read but a very good one. I love many of the big ideas put forth by this author. If you have a love of nature and ecosystems then this is your book,too.
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book‘s premise is that there is nothing natural left about nature; humans have been interracting with it and shaping it for 125million years and therefore the lines between native and invasive species are blurred and depend upon the date at which you say a pandscape was native.

The first section deals with highlighting this fact based on fascinating examples from around the world.
-„Natures resilience is increasingly expressed in the strength and colonizing abilities of alien species.“ = in
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Some very excellent points about the nature of wildness and resiliency are made in this book. However, I think there are some parts where Pearce takes things a little too far and seems to suggest we really shouldn't care about our effect on habitats. I doubt he sincerely feels that way, so some further exploration into sustainability and the dynamics of his New Wild ideas would have been reassuring if nothing else. Moreover, his tone/vocabulary is pretty argumentative and vague/nonscientific for ...more
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Fred Pearce is an English author and journalist based in London. He has been described as one of Britain's finest science writers and has reported on environment, popular science and development issues from 64 countries over the past 20 years. He specialises in global environmental issues, including water and climate change, and frequently takes heretic and counter-intuitive views - "a sceptic in ...more

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You’d never know it from reading the books listed here, but good science writing is incredibly difficult to pull off. There is both an art...
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“Conservationists who want to cosset nature like a delicate flower, to protect it from the threat of alien species, are the ethnic cleansers of nature, neutralizing the forces that they should be promoting.” 3 likes
“We may think of volcanic islands like Ascension as unusual because their recent origin and remoteness mean their ecosystems are made up of a motley crew of mariner migrants. But much of the world is like that. Nature is constantly in flux, and few ecosystems go back very far. Only ten thousand years ago, much of Europe and North America were covered in thick ice. All soil had been scraped away and with it most forms of life. Everything we see today in these former glaciated zones has either returned or arrived for the first time since the ice retreated.
Looked at from this perspective, the spread of alien species today is merely a continuation of a natural process of the colonization begun when the ice retreated. A broad time horizon shows there is no such thing as a native species. All lodgings are temporary and all ecosystems in a constant flux, the victims of circumstance and geological accident. As the pioneer British ecologist Charles Elton argued, “Were it not for the ice age, we [in Britain] should probably have wonderful mixed forests with wild magnolias and laurels and epiphytic orchids, such as . . . in China.”
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