Target article in Ethics, Policy & Environment, 18(3). 2015. With Yasha Rohwer
Protecting wild animals and preserving the environment are two ideals so seemingly compatible as to be almost inseparable. But in fact, between animal welfare and conservation science there exists a space of underexamined and unresolved tension: wildness itself. When is it right to capture or feed wild animals for the good of their species? How do we balance the rights of introduced species with those already established within an ecosystem? Can hunting be ecological? Are any animals truly wild on a planet that humans have so thoroughly changed? No clear guidelines yet exist to help us resolve such questions.
Transporting readers into the field with scientists tackling these profound challenges, Emma Marris tells the affecting and inspiring stories of animals around the globe--from Peruvian monkeys to Australian bilbies, rare Hawai'ian birds to majestic Oregon wolves. And she offers a companionable tour of the philosophical ideas that may steer our search for sustainability and justice in the non-human world. Revealing just how intertwined animal life and human life really are, Wild Souls will change the way we think about nature-and our place within it.
A paradigm shift is roiling the environmental world. For decades people have unquestioningly accepted the idea that our goal is to preserve nature in its pristine, pre-human state. But many scientists have come to see this as an outdated dream that thwarts bold new plans to save the environment and prevents us from having a fuller relationship with nature. Humans have changed the landscapes they inhabit since prehistory, and climate change means even the remotest places now bear the fingerprints of humanity. Emma Marris argues convincingly that it is time to look forward and create the “rambunctious garden,” a hybrid of wild nature and human management.
In this optimistic book, readers meet leading scientists and environmentalists; visit imaginary Edens, designer ecosystems, and Pleistocene parks. Marris describes innovative conservation approaches, including rewilding, assisted migration, and the embrace of so-called novel ecosystems.
Rambunctious Garden is short on gloom and long on interesting theories and fascinating narratives, all of which bring home the idea that we must give up our romantic notions of pristine wilderness and replace them with the concept of a global, half-wild rambunctious garden planet, tended by us.
This is a book of academic but approachable essays edited by Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier, and Brian Silliman. The focus is on the complexities of “following the data” in a field with lots of deeply held values. My own chapter focuses on the media treatment of the return of wolves to Yellowstone. Some studies that found a strong connection between reintroduction and elk numbers and behaviors and on through to tree growth. These studies received lots of media attention. But the studies that didn’t find a clear and strong connection were mostly ignored. In the end, a good story in which wolves save an iconic park is much more appealing than a message of “its complicated and requires more study”
Other essays cover issues from the science behind “planetary tipping points” and the environmental impacts of genetically modified foods. Read more about the volume here.
It was a privilege to be invited to contribute to this project on emerging ecosystems whose components are influenced by human factors. What began as a fascinating workshop with ecologists, philosophers and sociologists has turned into this unusually readable academic book. Here’s the summary from Wiley: “In this first comprehensive volume to look at the ecological, social, cultural, ethical and policy dimensions of novel ecosystems, the authors argue these altered systems are overdue for careful analysis and that we need to figure out how to intervene in them responsibly. This book brings together researchers from a range of disciplines together with practitioners and policy makers to explore the questions surrounding novel ecosystems. It includes chapters on key concepts and methodologies for deciding when and how to intervene in systems, as well as a rich collection of case studies and perspective pieces. It will be a valuable resource for researchers, managers and policy makers interested in the question of how humanity manages and restores ecosystems in a rapidly changing world.”
I contributed a chapter about writing books to this really fun and–if I don’t say so myself–indispensable guide to the freelance life. The other authors are all my friends of many years; we’ve been in a kind of email club for sharing resources, comparing notes and telling stories. Here’s the blurb the book team put together:
“With over 300 years of hard-won experience, the Writers of SciLance know how to prosper in the evolving world of popular science writing. They want you to succeed too. Whether you’re new to the field or a seasoned veteran, these award-winning pros will help you to polish skills, improve business smarts, and create community in what is a rewarding but often solitary field.
As a close-knit community of 35 science writers, The Writers of SciLance have worked as staffers and freelancers for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and web sites; as public information officers; and as corporate, university, and non-profit organization writers. Their articles on nearly every science topic imaginable have appeared in National Geographic, Discover Magazine, Smithsonian, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and scores of other outlets. They have won prestigious journalism awards, written best-selling books, and contributed to leading anthologies. SciLancers
have taught science writing at Johns Hopkins, Stanford and in workshops throughout Canada and the United States, and been awarded Scripps, MIT-Knight, and Alicia Patterson Foundation journalism fellowships. They live in communities big and small scattered across North America, with partners, children, dogs, cats and even a parrot.”
See more about the book, plus tons of great freelancing and writing advice at pitchpublishprosper.com
THE GOOD GARDENER? Nature, Humanity, and the Garden illuminates both the foundations and after-effects of humanity’s deep-rooted impulse to manipulate the natural environment and create garden spaces of diverse kinds. Gardens range from subsistence plots to sites of philosophical speculation, refuge, and self-expression. Gardens may serve as projections of personal or national identity. They may result from individual or collective enterprises. They may shape the fabric of the dwelling house or city. They may be real or imagined, literary constructs or visions of paradise rendered in paint. Some result from a delicate negotiation between creator and medium. Others, in turn, readily reveal the underlying paradox of every garden’s creation: the garden, so often viewed as a kinder, gentler, ‘second nature,’ results from violence done to what was once wilderness.
Designed as a companion volume to EARTH PERFECT? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden, this richly illustrated collection of provocative essays is edited by Annette Giesecke, Professor of Classics at the University of Delaware, and Naomi Jacobs, Professor of English at the University of Maine. Contributors to this wide-ranging volume include photographer Margaret Morton, landscape ethicist Rick Darke, philosopher David Cooper, environmental journalist Emma Marris, architectural theorist Nathaniel Coleman, and food historian William Rubel.
From John Muir to David Brower, from the creation of Yellowstone National Park to the Endangered Species Act, environmentalism in America has always had close to its core a preservationist ideal. Generations have been inspired by its ethos—to encircle nature with our protection, to keep it apart, pristine, walled against the march of human development. But we have to face the facts. Accelerating climate change, rapid urbanization, agricultural and industrial devastation, metastasizing fire regimes, and other quickening anthropogenic forces all attest to the same truth: the earth is now spinning through the age of humans. After Preservation takes stock of the ways we have tried to both preserve and exploit nature to ask a direct but profound question: what is the role of preservationism in an era of seemingly unstoppable human development, in what some have called the Anthropocene?
Ben A. Minteer and Stephen J. Pyne bring together a stunning consortium of voices comprised of renowned scientists, historians, philosophers, environmental writers, activists, policy makers, and land managers to negotiate the incredible challenges that environmentalism faces. Some call for a new, post-preservationist model, one that is far more pragmatic, interventionist, and human-centered. Others push forcefully back, arguing for a more chastened and restrained vision of human action on the earth. Some try to establish a middle ground, while others ruminate more deeply on the meaning and value of wilderness. Some write on species lost, others on species saved, and yet others discuss the enduring practical challenges of managing our land, water, and air.
From spirited optimism to careful prudence to critical skepticism, the resulting range of approaches offers an inspiring contribution to the landscape of modern environmentalism, one driven by serious, sustained engagements with the critical problems we must solve if we—and the wild garden we may now keep—are going to survive the era we have ushered in.
Contributors include: Chelsea K. Batavia, F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III, Norman L. Christensen, Jamie Rappaport Clark, William Wallace Covington, Erle C. Ellis, Mark Fiege, Dave Foreman, Harry W. Greene, Emma Marris, Michelle Marvier, Bill McKibben, J. R. McNeill, Curt Meine, Ben A. Minteer, Michael Paul Nelson, Bryan Norton, Stephen J. Pyne, Andrew C. Revkin, Holmes Rolston III, Amy Seidl, Jack Ward Thomas, Diane J. Vosick, John A. Vucetich, Hazel Wong, and Donald Worster.
Far-right radicals in Southern Oregon are threatening to bust open an irrigation canal. Instead, the region could be a model for managing watersheds in a warmer world.
I wrote this story about tensions over water where I live, in the Klamath Basin that straddles the Oregon-California border. It summarizes how we could share our water, even as the climate changes. The fact that two local irrigators with ties to infamous antigovernment agitator Ammon Bundy are threatening to open an irrigation canal in defiance of the Bureau of Reclamation was the excuse for the story--but the story is about compromise and collaboration, not conflict.
Nature documentaries mislead viewers into thinking that there are lots of untouched landscapes left. There aren’t.
It feels as if the world is on fire—and it is. In the last days of the Trump administration, U.S. government scientists announced that 2020 was one of the two hottest years in recorded history. The other hottest year was 2016: fittingly, the year that the United States elected Donald Trump president, a disaster for the environment as well as democratic norms.
Cascading disasters could become the new normal, the background to our lives. Or we could try to stop the dominoes from falling. But if we are to make the kind of sweeping systematic changes that could stop climate change from getting worse, end the truly dystopian inequities in our country, and crush the pandemic before hundreds of thousands more are dead, we cannot allow our baselines to shift. We cannot forget that these are disasters.
This essay describes the double claustrophobia of being trapped at home by the pandemic and wildfires. The sense of restriction feels strange for a Westerner who is used to being able to get up and go–to always have the option to escape into the millions of acres of public land in our region.
In this piece, which was commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, I wrote about what 2070 might look like if we do everything right on climate and conservation. I really enjoyed imagining a genuinely good future, and sketching out a road map to get there. Read this if you need a clearer sense of what you’re fighting FOR, not just what you are fighting against.
In this feature I take on organic farming, GMOs, and ‘regenerative agriculture’ and propose we mash the best of all these approaches together to create something that can not only adapt to climate change but can help ameliorate it. It also features me eating peanut butter sandwiches on a 7-hour California road trip.
I got a really fantastic response from this op-ed, in which I offer readers a simple five-step plan to move past anxiety and depression over climate change and become an active part of the solution. Hint: the secret to improving your mental health, as well as the health of the planet, is collective action, not individual sacrifice. Read and share!
I had mixed feelings when I was asked to write a piece about getting arrested during a sit-in at Oregon’s Governor’s office protesting a fossil fuel project. I didn’t want to center myself when many others face far more risk and impact and have fought harder and longer. However, I did want to share my experience for those who might be considering civil disobedience and want a sense of what it is like. So in the spirit of “service journalism” I decided to go ahead and share my own story. But I want to be super clear that others—notably Indigenous people along the Klamath and impacted landowners—have been fighting way longer than I have and have put way more on the line. I risked arrest in part because I have lots and lots of layered privilege that made doing so easier and less risky for me. There are infinite ways to fight for climate justice and this is just one approach that makes sense for some people. If civil disobedience makes sense to you and you are considering it, I hope my experience is useful. But this fight isn’t about me—it is about US—a wonderful, hopeful group of people who love the land, from Southern Oregon Rising Tide to Rogue Climate to tribal youth to ranchers and fishers.
For this piece about humans creating soil, I got to delve into myth and emotion and write about soil nutrient cycling like a poet. I really enjoyed the process! Illustrations by the very talented Jia Sung.
This story is very different from my usual work. It is not about the environment, except insofar as it is about how the environment of a remote part of Eastern Oregon led to violence. Ultimately, it is about how two men, off the grid, outside the shadow of law enforcement, both armed and ideologically committed to self-reliance, decided to solve their problems. Hint: it ended in blood.
In this story for National Geographic, I toured Manhattan with a rat expert, cuddled a rat on Long Island, watched terriers hunt rats in Washington D.C. and tried–and alas, failed–to eat rats in New Zealand. I came away with a profound respect for these clever, kind synanthropes.
In this story for Outside Magazine, I write about a little boy who got lost in the Oregon woods in the 1980s–and then walked some 16 miles to safety, on his own, in the dark, in near-freezing temperatures. He was six years old.
Today, Cody is nearly 40. To write the story, we met up with his mother Marcie and a member of the search party to figure out his route through the Blue Mountains. Then we hiked some of the way with my own six-year-old son.
Invasive species are sometimes trapped, poisoned, and shot in large numbers to save native species from extinction. Some scientists say the bloodshed isn't worth it.
I wrote this op-ed with Don Gentry, Chairman of the Klamath Tribes. We oppose a pipeline project that would endanger the Klamath River and the ancestral homelands of the Klamath people, as well as contribute to climate change.
How far are we willing to go to save species? Are we willing to kill? To meddle in evolution? This feature in Wired magazine looks at conservation at the dawn of the CRISPR gene editing age. What if the only way to save the wild is to engineer it?
This is one I am really proud of. A look at one wolf and one man over nearly a decade in Eastern Oregon. In their story are all the tensions of wildlife management in the Anthropocene, plus bone piles.
The Seasteading movement is getting close to building its first prototype, an artificial archipelago where people will live, play and do research. I report, from Tahiti!
Should environmentalists embrace technology or get closer to nature? Both, duh. This essay paints a picture of a future in which humans have lightened our impact on the rest of Earth's species but deepened our personal engagement with non-human nature. Plus, my brother drew the sketch of Utopia that accompanies it!
This story was reported quite near my home in Klamath Falls. I spent some time with John Stephenson tracking wolves and talking about what makes some wolves famous and others anonymous.
We’re in a motorized canoe on our slow way to the Matsigenka village of Tayakome—unreachable by any road, deep in the heart of Manú National Park in Peru…
Elias Machipango Shuverireni picks up his long, palm-wood bow and his arrows tipped with sharpened bamboo. We're going monkey hunting in Peru's Manú National Park—a huge swath of protected rain forest and one of the most biodiverse parks in the world.
Klamath Falls, Ore. — DROUGHT in the West is an ugly thing. Rivers trickle away to nothing, fires rage, crops fail, ranchers go broke, tribal people watch fish die. As Westerners fight over the little water left, tempers crack, lawsuits fly and bitterness coats whole communities like fine dust.
Creating haute locavore cuisine in Tassie has its challenges. The island has a robust fishing fleet—but no fresh fish market. Nearly everything is sent to Sydney and Melbourne. “Tasmanian” wines are nearly all produced off island with Tasmanian grapes—though Moyle lives on one of the few vineyards that makes its own wine. Imported produce is sprayed against pests, which icks Moyle out. And the foraging is somewhat slim. A keen backpacker told me that he’s extra careful to bring enough food rations when he heads out on a Tasmanian trek. “There’s hardly any bush tucker at all; you’d starve out there.”
A feature on the increasing momentum behind looking for the first Americans in the west–including offshore in the Pacific. I went to Idaho to visit Loren Davis's Cooper's Ferry dig for this story and got to see them pull wolverine teeth thousands of years old out of the sediment.
A piece for Orion on whether or not our obligations to save species justify meddling in wilderness areas.
Here’s an audio interview I did about the piece.
An Op-Ed, written with Greg Aplet. Here, we argue that “old” and “new” conservation aren’t opposites, but rather complementary parts of a diverse, bet hedging conservation strategy.
Is “leave no trace” a recipe for “have no fun” for kids visiting natural areas?
“Where Waters seeks minimal preparation of ingredients, Patterson and Redzepi seek to intensify their essence through technology. Fresh ingredients are not the end, as they are for Waters; they are the beginning. ‘To make this soup you will need peas so fresh and sweet that you could mistake them for candy,’ Patterson begins his recipe for Chilled English Pea Soup. ‘And a Thermomix,’ he continues. ‘Without both, this recipe is not for you.’”
In this piece in the journal Animal Conservation, I respond to a critique of my work by three well-respected conservation biologists: Brian Miller, Michael Soulé and John Terborgh. Their critique is here: ‘New conservation’ or surrender to development? Michelle Marvier also replied, here: ecumenical conservation. The ‘fight’ between traditional conservation and ‘new conservation’ is a distraction. We all agree on 95% of science and 95% of values. Our differences are real but very minor in comparison to our shared objectives. Save species, populations and ecosystems! Leave a green, diverse and surprising world to our children! Revel in the wonders of the Earth!
Predators are supposed to exert strong control over ecosystems, but nature doesn't always play by the rules.
For this piece, I wrote about how hard it is to walk around the block at a toddler's pace.
A Facebook favorite. I got some great email with personal stories from new hunters when this ran.
Here's an op-ed about the Anthropocene I wrote with Peter Kareiva, the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy; Joseph Mascaro, a postdoc at the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Erle Ellis is an associate professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Target article in Ethics, Policy & Environment, 18(3). 2015. With Yasha Rohwer
Restoration Ecology 24.5 (2016): 674-679. With Yasha Rohwer
Ethics, Policy & Environment. https://doi.org/10.1080/21550085.2018.1448043. (2018) With Yasha Rohwer
Science. 10.1126/science.aat4612 With Natalie Kofler et. al. (2018)
Conservation Biology. (2019). With Yasha Rohwer