I was very impressed by this new book from George Monbiot. In it he examines current conservation practice in Britain and across the world and asks whether we’re getting it right.
He draws on a huge range of sources to inform the book, from paleontology, to personal anecdote, from published scientific papers to the experience of older people.
His main argument is that in conserving our nature reserves we use artificial methods to impose an artificial state on our wild places, maintaining areas of damaged ecosystems rather than allowing them to adapt and reach their potential.
The picture he paints of a self-restored landscape, full of wildlife and sustained by the relationships between the plants and animals is a convincing and desirable one. The case studies he uses to illustrate his argument are striking.
Living near the Norfolk broads, I am inclined to disagree that all conservation should follow this path, as without considerable human intervention the broads would disappear entirely: that seems like a loss rather than an improvement to me, but in all fairness Monbiot didn’t call for all areas to be ‘rewilded’.
I was particularly impressed by the book’s emphasis on the importance of the views and lifestyles of people living in the areas, something which conservationists in the current model don’t always remember to value. He also has a chapter on ‘how not to rewild’ which looks at some of the atrocities committed by regimes across the world in the name of politically motivated conservation.
Reading the book is something of a roller coaster, there are upsetting figures illustrating the scale of the wildlife we’re losing, but these are balanced by the hope held out by the suggestions he makes for ways forward.
Thought provoking. Strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in Britain’s wild places and wildlife.