If you've flipped through the latest issue of the New Yorker, you may have spotted "Green is Good" (subscription required), which profiles The Nature Conservancy's president and CEO, Mark Tercek, and a few of the projects they've worked on since he joined the organization. The article mentions Keeping the Wild, a compilation of essays confronting the principles of the "new conservation" that Tercek supports, including the ideas that there is no more wilderness and that conservation should be focused primarily on protecting those aspects of the environment that humans depend on. Island Press is distributing Keeping the Wild and we're pleased to offer an excerpt from the book for this week's Foreword Friday. The chapter looks at the risks we run by subscribing to a human-centric view of nature, the origins of which author Eileen Crist traces to the Hellenistic idea of oecumene (learn how to pronounce that).* For the Matrix fans, check out this comparison:
“The state of the world captured via the garden metaphor sounds innocuous enough. But to invoke a different metaphor from popular culture, opting for the gardened-planet image is like taking the blue pill, instead of the red one, from Morpheus’s extended hand—choosing “the blissful ignorance of illusion over the painful truth of reality.” The painful reality of Matrix-planet is that it will be chock-full of industrial agricultural checkerboards and grazing lands; factory farms; industrial fish-farm operations; industrial energy landscapes; theme parks and resorts; highway systems, roads, and parking lots; billions of cars and other vehicles; and sprawling cities, as well as suburban, exurban, and rural settlements; malls; landfills; airports; and beachfront development. Global trade and travel, with their 24/7 traffic of already huge quantities of stuff, will escalate enormously—as will the entropy of nature conversion, biodiversity loss, and pollution that accompany them. The presence of humans will be palpable everywhere in this world devoid of any blank spots on the map—a world used, managed, monitored, gridded, and reduced to being knowable, with the map itself eventually turned into the territory. Thus, opting for Morpheus’s red pill, the planet’s ecological and existential predicament is plain, if painful, to see: “Gardened planet” is a euphemism for colonized Earth. And humanity is not penning another interesting chapter of natural history, but heralding the end of a sublime one—so long as we stay the course toward a coming world of 9, 10, or more billion people, running a global capitalist economy, and governing by the conceit that this planet is human real estate.”*The classics major in the room would like to note she was for once not the person responsible for bringing up Hellenistic ideas.