by Emma Marris
Reading Emma Marris’s book has transformed the way I think about nature and our relationship to it. Marris argues for nothing less than a radical new interpretation of what “nature” means to us. She believes that a new interpretation of Nature is vital and necessary for the survival of our planet. As true wilderness disappears, either through direct human disruption or climate change, she says we must make room for nature all around us. We must view nature not only as undeveloped and separate land, but as the overgrown suburban field where foxes and coyotes live, as the narrow urban river bank with several bird species, and as our own backyard. Marris does argue for some traditional environmental conservation efforts, such as land preservation and the xeriscaping of yards. But she also asks us to consider out of vogue or politically incorrect strategies to assist nature in its survival. For instance, Marris argues that we must stop thinking of plants as native and non-native. She also argues that in this shifting climate, we must embrace plants that will thrive in new environments and even assist in the migration of plants from one region to another as climate changes. As a native Westerner who has supported efforts to reintroduce native species and rid the environment of invasive ones, it was tough to read some of Marris’s intriguing theories, they ran so counter to my own. And I do find her idea of Wilderness as an “outdated” conception to be a dangerous one (what might opponents of wilderness preservation do with such an idea?). But even if you are a staunch supporter of wilderness conservation, as I am, this is an important book that might alter opinions and presuppositions about the environment that you hold dear.