Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the Climate Change Century
by Paddy Woodworth
University of Chicago Press, 2013

For some environmentalists, saving the planet is not just about preserving natural resources; it is also about fixing the disruptions caused by centuries of human activity. The practice, called ecological restoration, is the subject of journalist Woodworth's Our Once and Future Planet. 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.”