日期:2011-09-23 10:42


Nature conservation

The constant gardener

The future of wilderness

Sep 17th 2011 | from the print edition

Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. By Emma Marris. Bloomsbury; 224 pages; $25 and £20. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

书名:《喧闹的花园:在人类统领的世界里保护自然》 作者:艾玛•马里斯。布鲁斯堡出版社出版。224页。售价25美元或20英镑。可从Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk购买。

WHEN the Scottish-born American naturalist, John Muir, encountered a pristine wilderness where the soaring mountains touched the open sky, birds sang in the pine trees and fish spawned in the free-flowing rivers, he was determined to protect it from over-exploitation by the settlers who succeeded the native American presence. Muir fought to ensure that the Yosemite Valley in California became a national park, and he succeeded in 1890. The concept of preserving nature from man’s interference proved both powerful and enduring: almost a century later the Wilderness Act of 1964 empowered states to designate protected land. In “Rambunctious Garden” Emma Marris outlines why the concept of wilderness is flawed.


The journey begins in Hawaii, where biologists are toiling to remove species that have been introduced to the islands over the centuries since James Cook’s party landed there in 1778. Invaders such as purple-flowered Asian melastome and strawberry guava threaten to overrun delicate Hawaiian natives such as thornless roses and delicate tree ferns. Yet even if all the invaders were removed, it would only return the islands to the state into which the Polynesians, who inhabited them for at least 1,000 years before Cook’s arrival, had shaped them.


Even theoretically, returning Hawaii to a prehuman existence would be impossible. Ecosystems change over time, with or without the involvement of mankind, so no one can tell what Hawaii “should” look like. And mankind’s influence on his environment is now such that he has changed the composition of the atmosphere over the past few centuries, so the effects of humanity can never be completely removed.


Ms Marris traces the emergence of a “wilderness cult” that she believes affects efforts to restore habitats to a previous form. She argues that early American environmentalists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, have been misread as its champions. Although Emerson described “essences unchanged by man; space, the air, the river, the leaf”, he also wrote of the “perfect exhilaration” of “crossing a bare common, in snow puddles at twilight, under a clouded sky”. And when Thoreau became determined to get away from it all in 1845, he retired to Walden Pond, a mere mile-and-a-half away from the nearest village. Preserving nature, Ms Marris writes, is a relatively recent preoccupation.


Perhaps, but it has a longer history than the author fully acknowledges. A struggle between those who would remove man from a landscape and those who think we should actively manage the environment has existed since at least the 1930s. When the first global environmental organisation was established in 1948, it was called the International Union for the Protection of Nature: the organisation renamed itself in 1956, replacing “protection” with “conservation” in its title, because its members had grasped that people play an important role in shaping the natural world.

也许保护自然这一观念的产生比作者所认识到的还要早。早在上世纪三十年代或者更早时,就有人争辩应该对风景区进行隔离保护还是采取积极措施规划保护这个问题。1948年全球第一个环境组织成立了,当时名为国际自然保卫联盟(International Union for the Protection of Nature),1956年该组织更名,将名字中的“保卫”替换成了“保护”,因为联盟成员领会到了人类在自然世界的发展中所扮演角色的重要性。

Ms Marris’s book is an insightful analysis of the thinking that informs nature conservation. The author outlines the concepts of “re-wilding” habitats by introducing species that have been lost, of the “assisted migration” carried out by foresters who prepare for climate change by planting trees at the current limits of their ranges (and, indeed, the gardeners who transplant cuttings and seedlings from one part of the planet to another). She describes how ecosystems can be designed: nesting birds can be encouraged to breed on a site by manipulating it to suit them, for example. And nature can flourish in areas that are not wild, such as city roof-gardens.


There are many reasons to value the natural world. Some people want to prevent certain species from becoming extinct, others to ensure the diversity of an ecosystem, to make use of clean air and water or to revel in the beauty of a landscape. Happily for both mankind and the natural world, Ms Marris concludes, many such causes can be aligned.


  • conservationn. 保存,防止流失,守恒,保护自然资源
  • preventv. 预防,防止
  • touchedadj. 受感动的 adj. 精神失常的
  • globaladj. 全球性的,全世界的,球状的,全局的
  • insightfuladj. 有深刻见解的,富有洞察力的
  • protectvt. 保护,投保
  • determinedadj. 坚毅的,下定决心的
  • emergencen. 出现,浮现,露出
  • interferencen. 妨碍,干扰 [计算机] 干涉
  • currentn. (水、气、电)流,趋势 adj. 流通的,现在的,