I have just finished reading George Monbiot’s book Feral: Rewilding the land, sea and human life. Some of the ideas are controversial and continue to be debated, and just one thing this book will do is open your eyes to any romantic or poetic attachment you have of some aspects of the UK countryside. It won’t destroy those poetic visions and wonderings, but rightfully cause you to separate them when you consider the act of conservation.
The next time I see heather moorland and bluebell woods I will be looking through a clearer lens at what is really there.
A book that will make you rethink conservation, explore the concept of rewilding, self-willed land, trophic cascades and the shifting baseline syndrome that obscures our true understanding of what biodiversity is.
- ideas on why big cat sightings endure and are increasing in the UK
- ‘The conservation prison’ (Chapter 12) – if you only read one thing about conservation, let it be this!
- tables listing mammals that could potentially be reintroduced into the UK including wolf, beaver
What I’m left with after reading….
Part of me wants there to really be big cats, somehow elusive, on a small island.Part of me doesn’t because it’s a beautiful thing to have a vision that has a deep-rooted core. You need only have a tawny owl stare at you eye to eye in the moonlight to know that we are connected with those out there, and that we need the wild in our veins.
Even the imagined wild is healthy for us. Even if big black cats don’t roam, the imagining of them, our beautiful capacity for storytelling is something human, fascinating and so cherishable. But storytelling does not replace the quick heartbeat of a random wild encounter.
I also wonder about how this relates to Australia. I look around now and see bare area of hills, wide spraying to control weeds and my imagination wanders as I realise that those hills were once forested. The area I live in is applying for UNESCO World Heritage status as an agrarian (mostly viticulture) landscape. I support the idea of this, but now I do wonder is this an example somehow of shifting baseline syndrome? Should we be trying to make time stand still with this landscape we have now, or projecting a richer, more biodiverse landscape in future? Will world heritage status make it difficult to think about how parts our landscape might benefit from a bit of rewilding? I hope not.
Also, how did our indigenous people see the landscape change when white settlement arrived? Which keystone predators now missing from our landscape? How could they impact the health of our rivers? Could our own challenges with both drought and flood be linked to the removal of big mammalian predators?
I can see that the Dingo – a sub-species of the grey wolf, would have the same image problem as the idea of wolf reintroduction in the UK- in fact, probably even a much greater image problem. It is our big bad wolf to most farmers and there is fear surrounding their presence. I wonder though…do we know, can we imagine how the dingo would impact the ecology and health of our rivers beyond just the view of limiting the numbers of their prey? Would it be in the same way that we can see in how the presence of wolves can change rivers? Could there be impacts we are yet to imagine? It looks like some researchers are thinking about this which is really exciting.
And if not the apex predator, the dingo, what is the next species to turn our gaze to? Is perhaps, our quiet little platypus the beaver of our rivers?
Anyway, read the book!
Update Nov 2015: Since reading this book, I have been following the excellent rewilding initiatives in Australia, for example looking at rewilding of the Northern Quoll and Tasmanian Devil. Follow, encourage and find out how you can support these projects via Rewilding Australia and their website Facebook and Twitter updates.