Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Marris's Rambunctious Garden too rambunctious?

I am annoyed by Emma Marris’s Rambunctious Garden, but maybe in a good way. It has certainly given me a new interest in invasive weeds, and a readiness to think differently. But and there is a big but, she seems to be simply saying bad stuff happens. Species ranges grow and shrink and species do go extinct – the world is really just one big garden for people to do as they like in it. And if we lose a whole bunch of interesting endemic species with short-lived, quick growing, rapidly seeding species who put little effort into their offspring. 

It is the economist’s view of ecology – a licence for greed and carelessness. Yes change happens but the rate of change in the past 200 years and especially the last 50 years is unprecedented. Ecosystems that have existed for 100s of years, 1000s of years (and that’s a lot of time in a world that marks itself as some 2000 years old), 100,000 of years, even millions of years, ecosystems that have co-evolved over many lifetimes are being destroyed in less than one. Yet she takes time out of the equation. Her position as an ecologist seems perverse. Yes climate change is changing the paradigm and we need to do some rethinking about what we consider "nature" and "wilderness'. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

Is it important that the number of species on some islands are increasing though that is as the expense of the biodiversity of the world? Is that not obvious? Yes it is good to challenge prevailing wisdom, but what is she offering in its place? She seems to be picking around the margins, finding the exceptions, not the principles. The quality of the writing is disappointing for such a bold thesis. She is using language frequently to deliberately stretching the argument. She has eradicated time and the rate of change from her argument. Wow. Yes things have always changed chronologically and spatially but it is the rate of change that is a concern, a rate of change generated by the expansion of technology.

Maybe I have yet to read far enough. I am only 48% into the book (according the bar at the bottom of my kindle screen.) I look forward to writing again when I have finished the book.             

No comments: