Gardeners of Eden: Rediscovering Our Importance to Nature
Dagget's ideas fly in the face of our culture's ancient assumption that humans are separate from nature and of current notions that the best way for us to protect the land is to leave it alone. He demonstrates case after case of positive human engagement in the environment and of managed ecosystems and restored areas that are richer, more diverse, and healthier than unmanaged ones. Much of pre-Columbian America, he contends, was not a pristine wilderness but an ancient garden managed over millennia by native peoples who shaped the plant and animal communities around them to the mutual benefit of all. What Dagget is proposing is a radical change in the way we define land health and the ways this health can be achieved. Rather than leaving the land alone, he recommends a new kind of environmentalism based on management, science, evolution, and holism, and served by humans who enrich the environment even as they benefit from it. In this way, we humans can resume our ancient role as gardeners and stewards of our world, reviving damaged land, facilitating the return of native species, restoring the land's ability to absorb and store water and carbon. ecological crisis and a new purpose for our human energies and ideals. This book is essential reading for anyone involved with the earth and anyone seeking a viable way for our burgeoning human population to continue to live upon it.
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Review of Dan Dagget's Gardeners of Eden: Rediscovering Our Importance to Nature (2005) by Lisa Maria Fox In Gardeners of Eden, Dan Dagget explores a new dynamic of land conservation, which is challenging the traditional "protection-based" land conservation practices south of our borders. This book provides us with the genesis of what could be an important dialogue about land management and conservation in Alberta. Alberta sits on the edge of a new era where we are challenging existing governance models, introducing new frameworks for land-use and watershed management. Some folks are responding to these pressures by embarking upon a desperate race to find and conserve vast tracks of wild lands and prairie grasslands as parklands. Much of Alberta's native prairie landscape has been managed by generations of ranchers and grain farmers. Recent economic growth demands land, and this has challenged landowners with the conflict of selling out to developers or preserving the heritage of the agricultural community by dedicating land to "land trusts" to be managed for conservation. Land trusts are but one of the tools in the conservation tool box along with dedication of parkland by the province. In the name of land conservation - the goal is to conserve large tracts of native prairie landscapes and unique biodiversity hot-spots in various sizes and with varying degrees management. One Alberta rancher decided that if he couldn't stop the sprawl of an urban center - he would try to manage the impact on his small piece of ranchland. Tim Harvey, a local agricultural producer and landowner west of Calgary recently decided to sell 1,300 hectares of land to the province as a park in the name of conservation. The Harvey family also set aside over $6 million to support the transformation of ranchland to parkland. Not dissimilar to our neighbors to the south of the border, there are differences in opinion between land-owners and conservationists in how we expect land conservation to yield rewards, and these opinions will vary within and across the diverse landscape and roll with the tides of economic pressures. The Gardener's of Eden provides us with a perspective that demands we look outside of the box to find a common ground between conservationist and the perpetual culture of extracting our fiber, our food, and our resources from the land. Dagget offers the conservationist an opportunity to see land as a resource to be managed and challenges our notion of protection by eliminating our interaction with the land and encourages landowners to be "gardeners" and to manage the land within the symbiotic rules of the ecosystem's checks and balances. In Gardener's of Eden, Dagget maintains that "the health of a piece of land or a collection of ecosystems is not a matter of their condition. It is purely a matter of how that land is managed." I wonder if we cannot borrow some of the examples and perhaps even the philosophy of land management to help us in our scramble to prevent and mitigate the rapid rape of the landscape by growing cities, sprawling industry impacts along the oil and gas cooridors, and the exploitive nature of combined feeding operations. Perhaps we will see some version of Dagget's land management philosophy in the mix, perhaps not. There remains a challenge to those that have read and absorbed Gardeners' of Eden to do one better and to build "ecosystem management" and the ethic of respect for the land back into our relationship with the land. Lisa Maria Fox is an active member of the board and part-time Agriculture Caucus Coordinator for the Alberta Environmental Network.