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Earth Repair

A Transatlantic History of Environmental Restoration
Marcus Hall

BUY Paper · 328 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813941998 · $35.00 · Jul 2018

Antoinette Forrester Downing Award, Society of Architectural Historians (2007)

Just as the restoration of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment sparked enormous controversy in the art world, so are environmental restorationists intensely divided when it comes to finding ways to rehabilitate damaged ecosystems. Although environmental restoration is quickly becoming a widespread pursuit, debate over the methods and goals of this endeavor often halts progress. The same question confronts artistic and environmental restorationists: Which systems need restoring, and to what states should they be restored?

In Earth Repair: A Transatlantic History of Environmental Restoration, Marcus Hall explores the answer to this question while offering an alternative to the usual narrative of humans disrupting and spoiling the earth. Hall’s purpose is not to deny that humans have done lasting damage but to show that those who believed in restoration did not always agree on what they wanted to restore, or how, or to what form. With guidance from the pioneer conservationist George Perkins Marsh, the reader travels between the United States and Italy to see that restoration has taken many forms over the past two hundred years, from maintaining and repairing, to gardening and naturalizing. By contrasting land management in these two countries and elsewhere, Earth Repair clarifies different meanings of restoration, shows how such meanings have changed through time and place, and suggests how restorationists can apply these insights to their own practices.


Ecological restoration appears to most of us as a novel, churning, exuberant practice in search of a solution to the 20th century. Marc Hall exposes the traditions underlying restoration that extend much farther back and are culturally crossed. For North American readers it is good to be reminded that restoration did not begin as an idea or practice only in the 1930s American Midwest (no matter how important these developments were). With this terrific book Marc Hall is emerging as the historian laureate of the restoration movement..

Eric Higgs, former chair for Society of Ecological Restoration International

 Although many people tend to think of ecological restoration as a very recent development in environmentalism, it in fact has much deeper roots than they realize. This pioneering study is thus an invaluable contribution not just to comparative environmental history, but to contemporary restoration efforts as well.

William Cronon, editor of Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature

A landmark in environmental history, Earth Repair offers major new insights into conservation ideas and practices derived from comparative analysis in the Old World and the New World, including sophisticated vignettes of efforts to curb disasters and reform land management in the Alps and the Rockies. This wonderfully written book also shows how the contrasts noted by Americans and Italians abroad now reaffirmed, now reshaped, national views on why and how to conserve.

David Lowenthal, author of George Perkins Marsh: Prophet of Conservation

About the Author(s): 

Marcus Hall teaches in the environmental studies program at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He is the winner of the Rachel Carson Prize from the American Society for Environmental History and the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the Western History Association.

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