Rambunctious Garden by Emma Marris, 2012
This book looks at the historical antecedents of the idea of wilderness, and how that has affected conservation today.
There really is nowhere in the world that is “pristine” wilderness, because global warming has reached into every corner. But even before the effects of global warming were known, the idea of pristine wilderness frequently eliminated the Native Americans who had lived their before — as the Miwok Indians were evicted from Yellowstone when it was made a national park.
Some groups, like the Washington Native Plant Society among many others, set a baseline of European colonization, picking different years for different parts of the continent — 1850 for Washington. But the idea of a baseline is itself based on an old, outdated concept on the processes of ecology; that is, that an ecological zone proceeded along a steady path to a climax state, as in the old idea of climax forest. That’s been pretty thoroughly disproven, but a lot of practices started when that idea held sway are still being carried out. For instance, the idea of an 1850 baseline ignores the fur trappers, who were decades earlier, and who wiped out the beaver, which drastically affected the waterways of the region. Not to mention smallpox, which arrived even earlier.
But the invalidity of the idea of a baseline or of pristine wilderness does not mean we should pave over everything. Rather, it gives us the freedom to bring nature closer to us, to see that the separation of nature and the built environment is itself a false distinction, and one we should get rid of as soon as possible. This is the same point that Lyanda Lynn Haupt makes in Crow Planet: nature is everywhere, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can change our lifestyles and habits and awareness.
As I type this, I’m less than halfway through the book, so there is probably a lot more to learn about. But I was thinking that “Rambunctious Garden” is complementary to “Crow Planet” and that the former is likely to be as influential on my work as the latter. That may be overburdening Rambunctious Garden with false expectations, but I hope not.
Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.