The New Wild

The New Wild

Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature's Salvation

Book - 2015
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Named one of the best books of 2015 by The Economist

A provocative exploration of the "new ecology" and why most of what we think we know about alien species is wrong

For a long time, veteran environmental journalist Fred Pearce thought in stark terms about invasive species: they were the evil interlopers spoiling pristine "natural" ecosystems. Most conservationists and environmentalists share this view. But what if the traditional view of ecology is wrong--what if true environmentalists should be applauding the invaders?

In The New Wild , Pearce goes on a journey across six continents to rediscover what conservation in the twenty-first century should be about. Pearce explores ecosystems from remote Pacific islands to the United Kingdom, from San Francisco Bay to the Great Lakes, as he digs into questionable estimates of the cost of invader species and reveals the outdated intellectual sources of our ideas about the balance of nature. Pearce acknowledges that there are horror stories about alien species disrupting ecosystems, but most of the time, the tens of thousands of introduced species usually swiftly die out or settle down and become model eco-citizens. The case for keeping out alien species, he finds, looks increasingly flawed.

As Pearce argues, mainstream environmentalists are right that we need a rewilding of the earth, but they are wrong if they imagine that we can achieve that by reengineering ecosystems. Humans have changed the planet too much, and nature never goes backward. But a growing group of scientists is taking a fresh look at how species interact in the wild. According to these new ecologists, we should applaud the dynamism of alien species and the novel ecosystems they create.

In an era of climate change and widespread ecological damage, it is absolutely crucial that we find ways to help nature regenerate. Embracing the new ecology, Pearce shows us, is our best chance. To be an environmentalist in the twenty-first century means celebrating nature's wildness and capacity for change.
Publisher: Boston : Beacon Press, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780807033685
Branch Call Number: 578.62 PEA
Characteristics: xvi, 245 pages


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Sep 03, 2017

I would encourage anyone who reads Pearce's book to consider the response from Gail Wallin, co-chair of the Canadian Council on Invasive Species ( I also highly recommend Daniel Simberloff's Invasive Species: What Everyone Needs to Know. Invasive species are not a part of evolution. Invasive species are introduced by humans and, without control, cause significant harm to biodiversity. This is not a matter of "inconvenience" to humans as Pearce portrays it. Public health consequences from spread of disease and economic impacts due to agriculture losses from invasive species should hardly be called inconveniences. Additionally, they change entire ecosystems at the expense of native flora and fauna. Pearce's book is inflammatory and based on non-scientific ideas.

Jun 13, 2017

A mostly one-sided treatment of biome evolution that focuses almost completely on the positive benefits of alien species, but justified by the overwhelming number of books that are equally one-sided in focus on the negative effects of species migration. As long as this isn't the only book you read on the subject, read away.

Aug 03, 2016

Fred Pearce's The New Wild is a badly needed perspective countering the general but prevalent conservationist argument that most, if not all, change away from some unspecified natural state is a bad thing. Even the term "natural" has been rendered almost meaningless the way it's overused. Pearce, an environmental consultant and journalist, makes his case by reexamining recent trends, applying the latest evidence, and desperately trying to debunk the many of the myths that have long since made a home in the conservationist movement.

The author is fighting an uphill battle. Good luck to him. People of all walks of life take this subject personally no matter what their level of involvement.

Jan 24, 2016

An eye-opening book about the fallacy of "pristine wilderness", the resilience of nature, and what constitutes a native species. The author makes a compelling case for evaluating so-called non-native species on their merits and questions the crusading efforts to eradicate them. That said, I think he glosses over the devastating impact that some invasive species can have, albeit as seen over the time scale of a human life. Although not intended, the book is another example of how changing entrenched, conventional ideas can threaten those who practice them. ("Misbehaving" by Thaler is another example).

Nov 02, 2015

Common sense questioning of the assumptions that native equals good, alien equals bad, and only aliens can be called invasive. Leaves you realizing our picture of what is native depends on how far back in time you go, and that ecosystems never are static.


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Jan 24, 2016

Conservationists in many parts of the world are attempting to conserve what they take to be wilderness, but increasing evidence suggests that the territories involved are or were cultural landscapes, created as much by human activity as nature.

Jan 24, 2016

Most conservationists have been reluctant to open their eyes to discover nature's resilience and powers of recovery - still less to recognize the role of specialist colonizers and nonnative species in that process. This blinkered approach complicates their wish to protect and revive nature by excluding a wide range of options for rebooting the wild. ... Nature has little regard for conservationists' love of what they see as the pristine. For nature, it matters not a jot where a species comes from, if it does a useful job. If conservationists don't wake up quickly, they risk becoming the enemies of nature rather than its saviours.

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