Our Once and Future Planet
Restoring the World in the Climate Change Century
But that paints an unbalanced—and overly disheartening—picture of what’s going on with environmental stewardship today. There are success stories, and Our Once and Future Planet delivers a fascinating account of one of the most impressive areas of current environmental experimentation and innovation: ecological restoration. Veteran investigative reporter Paddy Woodworth has spent years traveling the globe and talking with people—scientists, politicians, and ordinary citizens—who are working on the front lines of the battle against environmental degradation. At sites ranging from Mexico to New Zealand and Chicago to Cape Town, Woodworth shows us the striking successes (and a few humbling failures) of groups that are attempting to use cutting-edge science to restore blighted, polluted, and otherwise troubled landscapes to states of ecological health—and, in some of the most controversial cases, to particular moments in historical time, before widespread human intervention. His firsthand field reports and interviews with participants reveal the promise, power, and limitations of restoration.
Ecological restoration alone won’t solve the myriad problems facing our environment. But Our Once and Future Planet demonstrates the role it can play, and the hope, inspiration, and new knowledge that can come from saving even one small patch of earth.
Association of American Publishers: PROSE Book Award
“Woodworth gives a stirring portrait of the hardworking environmentalists who are trying to restore landscapes to their former, untouched glory, but he also captures the dark side of the enterprise: it sometimes requires the brutal destruction of very large numbers of invasive species to make room for long-departed native ones. Restoration is also basically guesswork, Woodworth notes, because most of us have never actually experienced nature at its most pristine. Ultimately, he ends up wondering whether we can ever hope to restore ‘degraded ecosystems, and our own damaged relationship to the environment.’
"Outstanding: Paddy Woodworth has opened a broad and major window to the world of ecosystem restoration and its restoration biologists, for those of us who do it, know it, and the public who needs it. He does this by actually taking the time to meet the practitioners, users and evaluators of restoration projects and their aftermaths, and cast a reporter's unjaundiced commentary about them. Woodworth understands, documents, and dissects the mandatory integration of the restoration project with its users, its producers and its likely future fate. He does this not by counting how many species of birds or trees are present or absent, but through unveiling the normal synergies—and antagonisms—that exist among any array of humans focused on a particular 'solution' to a biologically destructive assault on the wild world. The single largest problem with restoration, and Woodworth knows and portrays this problem very well, is persuading some significant portion of society to stop the assault that generated the need for restoration, let nature take possession again of the site and its processes, and stimulate the next generation to allow the continuity of that non-human possession. Sure, this is the world through Woodworth’s glasses, but that is what writing is all about . . . marvelous prose."
"Restoration ecology is a new science and a new human endeavour. Everyone can agree on the importance of its mission: to understand ecosystems well enough to heal wounds inflicted by a flawed but well-meaning species (us). But not everyone agrees on how this can best be done. In this book Paddy Woodworth beautifully describes the earliest successes and failures, the fundamental arguments of theory and practice, of what may be the most important discipline on earth--reconciling people to nature through positive and thoughtful interaction. Only a journalist could navigate the technical arguments, the philosophical contradictions, the strong personalities and the political polarities that now define and affect restoration ecology. He may well be a Herodotus chronicling the birth of a hopeful new world."