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Wild By Design: A Conversation with Author Laura Martin

Today environmental restoration is a global pursuit. Governments, nonprofits, and other institutions spend billions of dollars each year to remove invasive species, build wetlands, and reintroduce species driven from their habitats. But restoration has not always been so intensively practiced. It began as the pastime of a few wildflower enthusiasts and the first practitioners of the new scientific discipline of ecology.

Restorationists grapple with the deepest puzzles of human care for life on earth: How to intervene in nature for nature’s own sake? Is it possible to design nature without destroying wildness? Laura J. Martin shows how amateur and professional ecologists, interest groups, and government agencies coalesced around a mode of environmental management that sought to respect the world-making, and even the decision-making, of other species. At the same time, restoration science reshaped material environments in ways that transformed what we understand the wild to be.In Wild by Design, restoration’s past provides vital knowledge for climate change policy. But Martin also offers something more―a meditation on what it means to be wild and a call for ecological restoration that is socially just.

Laura J. Martin is a historian and ecologist who studies how people shape the habitats of other species. She is the author of Wild by Design: The Rise of Ecological Restoration and articles in journals including Environmental History and Science. Her writing and research have been featured in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She is an environmental studies professor at Williams College and a former fellow of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, the Stanford Humanities Center, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Science Foundation. She is working on a global history of hormonal herbicides.
Sponsored by the Write Connection.
“An outstandingly well-researched and deeply thoughtful account of the way that the United States has attempted to negotiate its relationship to wild plants and animals…an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the implications of our interventions.”—John Dupré, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Can we repair the ecological damage that we’ve done? As Laura Martin observes, no question today could be more pressing, or more uncertain. Wild by Design is a fascinating book—far-reaching, deeply researched, and probing.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
Wild By Design: A Conversation with Author Laura Martin is an event in association with the Thoreau’s Cape Cod Readathon, a first-of-its-kind event brought to you by The Barnstable Land Trust and many other partners in Concord and on Cape Cod including Thoreau Farm. The Readathon will be held Oct. 7 & 8 at Fuller Farm in Marstons Mills as well as live-streamed. Find out more at


Oct 05 2023


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Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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