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The Killing Of The Countryside
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 1998
Graham Harvey has produced a very readable book that focuses on the problems facing the British Countryside since the Second World War. The countryside has been largely destroyed by the continued application of pesticides and intensive farming methods. Although the point has been made that it has been difficult for farmers to refuse payments when the subsidies have been so great.
A well written and apparently well researched book that puts the point across, although perhaps a little repetitive in places. Well worth a read for an ecologist or land manager or for anyone interested in the plight of todays countryside.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 1999
Just finished reading The Killing of the Countryside by Harvey. Indictment of production subsidy system in the UK and effects on rural environment and life - lent to me by a farmer! Interesting and educative but didn't need 200 pages to make his few valid points. Unfortunately, whilst his case for removing production subsidies is compelling, he fails to suggest politically realistic policies which would achieve his objectives.
70% of UK consumed organic produce is currently imported. The subsidy for organic conversion is about 1/4 of the production subsidy for intensive farming. This years Uk Government Organic Conversion Fund ran out of money after 6 months. They apparently received a very large number of conversion applications - good news I think.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2013
Before I bought this book I wondered whether I should. After all, The Killing Of The Countryside is dated (published in 1998), it's by an author I'm unfamiliar with, the reviews to date seem to mixed, and to cap it all, there was no way of really assessing the book content because of the limited amount shown by the Amazon `look inside' feature. In the end I took the plunge, mainly because I wanted to learn more about the evident damage that modern agricultural methods is inflicting on the U.K countryside and there didn't appear to be any books covering this available, and secondly, because John Humphrey's, author of The Great Food Gamble (an excellent book by the way) spoke highly of this book in his book and on the front cover of this one. The fact that this book had also received the 1997 BP Natural World Book Award clearly also suggested that the content of the book was worth reading (and wasn't throwing any mud in the direction of the big oil companies!). So I took the plunge and bought the book.

I'm glad I did. I learnt an awful lot, a surprising amount in fact, much of which I was largely ignorant of. Graham Harvey makes extremely clear in this book the unbelievable damage the flawed use of farm subsidies has done to our land, farming communities and food chain. In this book Graham Harvey looks at the changes in our countryside and farming practices pre and post the WWII watershed. It shines the spotlight on the period of greatest change (post 1945 onwards) in how we farm and tend the land, so although the book ends in 1997, the end point is irrelevant. The reader, as a result of the book, clearly now knows how we got from where we were to how we have arrived at the present regrettable state farming and the countryside is now in.

Looking at the countryside from your car window at the height of the growing season it is easy to suppose that all is well in our green and pleasant land. This book exposes the stark reality. Today our countryside is a dead zone for much of natural life. War has been waged against all living things, bar crops. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides are being used in quantity and in ever more frequent cycles to kill biological, insect and animal life indiscriminately. 1000's of miles of animal and insect friendly hedgerows have been torn out mainly as a result of farm subsidies that rewarded farmers to grow crops in quantities that could not sold. Subsidies have encouraged the overstocking of grazing sheep and cattle thereby causing damaging erosion of the soil. Subsidies have also encouraged the ploughing of marginal land and the draining and farming of marsh land and areas previously left as meadows, Graham shows how the subsidy system rapidly turned our way of farming from what that was good for the land (mixed farming of crops and livestock raising, multi-crop growing, field rotation as a means of nurturing the soil etc.) to one of mega huge farms of mono crops that require repeated heavy doses of poisons and chemicals. Throughout, he provides a wealth of statistics that show the extent of what happened and what is continuing to happen.

Of course, there's a lot more to this book than what I've outlined above and Graham does a good job in looking at all aspects. The list of book contents below give some idea of the breadth of issues Graham addresses.

Preface
Acknowledgements
List of abbreviations
1: The Grim Reapers
2: The Desert in our Midst
3: The New Inheritors
4: The Countryside in Ransom
5: No figures in the Landscape
6: The View from the hills
7: The Big Winners
8: The Riches We Squandered
9: A Famine at the Heart of the Feast
10: The Wasting Ground
11: A Place in the Country
12: Breaking the Chains
13: Living Countryside
Notes
Index

I think this is a very vital book to read. It's a book that received strong praise on its release as the reviews of the book below show (taken from the book cover):

`A scathing attack ... he explodes the myth of cheap food with a few statistics even the dimmest politician should be able to grasp, and shows rural Britain devastated by the politics of unthinkable subsidy' John Humphreys, New Statesman

`The killing of the countryside is absolute dynamite' Jonathan Poritt, BBC Wildlife

`A modern Grapes of Wrath ... I have seldom read a more meticulous or devastating case for the prosecution' The Times

To conclude: If you really want to know what has happened to our countryside and why, this is a very good book to read. These forces are still at work today. Only a radical rethink of how we produce our food can stall our headlong rush to the awaiting abyss. What Graham outlines and says in this book matters.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2002
This was a real eye opener. What can I say. It pinpoints all the mistakes made in the last century and how they could so easily have been avoided. Here is your answer to why we have salmonella, B.S.E, foot & mouth, you name it. Why won't people listen?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2011
This book exposes long held myths about farms and farming. As well as questioning a popular belief in a benign tenure of the land, Harvey also focuses on partnerships between chemical companies, such as ICI, and the Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which date back to the Second World War. These partnerships neglected the effects of intensive farming on the environment. This book focuses on the effects, and they are worrying. Certain types of damage are not only irreversible, but also may occur at unpredicted dates in the future. After describing the processes of soil erosion, there is a chilling reminder at the end of the book that, in spite of pleas from a growing population to increase crop yields, civilization will always depend on just a few inches of topsoil.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2015
Didn't want to put this book down. Gives a clear, rational explaination of the effects of over production of the land. Lots of things to think about. Will be looking to get another book by same author.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This book is well worth reading and contains a wealth of interesting material. On the downside it is exceedingly long, repetitive and poorly structured. The one side-ed ness of the argument detracts, everything always proves his case, nothing ever contradicts it. Despite the length I would not suggest that this is a useful source of information, more a spirited polemic. Read it as a wake up call, but don't take it as gospel.
The ideal gift for farmers you don't like this Christmas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2013
This is a great book . I learnt a lot about saving the Countryside and found this inspirational. I will be trying to save the countryside.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2001
Ever wondered why it is so hard to find wild flowers, birds and mammals on a walk through our 'green and pleasant land'? This book has the answers. It's one of most depressing, but also one of the most important books I've ever read. It's a call for us all to shake off our apathy and get angry about what has been done in our name and with our money.
Before the war we had half a million small mixed farms, supporting a million workers and abundant wildlife. But in 1947 the Agriculture Act introduced a subsidy system that rigged the food market and started the relentless industrialisation of agriculture. By paying farmers solely for the amount of food they produce and the number of animals they can fit into a field, we have created a monstrous intensive system of food factories.
As a result we have lost almost all our natural habitats, replacing them with a sterile monoculture soaked with chemicals and hostile to all forms of life. We are still losing 10,000 miles of hedgerow each year. Most farmers have been driven out of business, and now only a handful of farm workers are employed. The only winners in the whole sorry mess have been the small number of large farmers who remain, and the chemical companies who supply them. They are understandably resistant to any change in the status quo.
To add insult to injury, each of us pays several hundred pounds a year in taxes to support this crazy system, and that's ignoring hidden costs like that of cleaning up our water supply to get rid of nitrates from chemical fertilisers. We are paying to destroy our countryside.
OK, the book makes some points more than once, and could do with being restructured and shortened. But so what? This is so important to anyone who cares about our countryside. Buy it and just read the first chapter if you want to.
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on 15 February 2013
A brilliant read. I love a good book. There is nothing better than emersing yourself in a really good read.
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