Emma Marris’s new contribution to understanding wildness & wilderness, with a critique of the notion that landscapes can (or should) be returned to a baseline date or condition

Emma Marris’s new book Rambunctious Garden is some of the best stuff I’ve seen on today’s wildness/wilderness issues. She critiques the notion of a “baseline” ideal for a landscape, e.g. pre-Euroamerican for Yellowstone or 1938 for Kennecott, Alaska. Her work is limited to nature & ecosystems, rather than human history as in McCarthy-Kennecott, but I think the same ideas apply and could be extended to fit.

Her writing explains just where the National Park Service is coming from re both its natural area and historic site management founded on the baseline ideal, and shreds it.

From what I’ve read so far (only part way through the book), I think she is overconfident about the potential for well planned management to provide solutions and is insufficiently unaware of its downsides. Similar to the way complexities and ambiguities render the baseline ideal landscape undefinable and unattainable, complexities and uncertainties limit the role of environmental management (a term which my mentor Grant McConnell used to spit out with disdain).

Further steps developing from Marris’s work so far could include expanding it to the social/cultural and putting her critique of the baseline ideal together with a critique of planned management. The two critiques make a good pair. Would be very interesting to do that and see what develops from it.

Marris, Emma. Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. 1st ed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2011.
audio interview with Emma Marris at http://www.wpr.org/hereonearth/archive_110901k.cfm

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