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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on this subject to date, 31 May 2013
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This review is from: Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding (Kindle Edition)
It is not a coincidence that the finest writers on wilderness - Henry Thoreau, Sigurd Olson, John Muir and Aldo Leopold - all had a sound scientific knowledge as well as the capacity to wonder. Both are necessary to make sense of the interconnections and entanglements in nature. This is a book in that fine tradition.

All is not well with the ecosystem in our wild country. Some of our most destructive uses of the land - upland sheep farming, windfarms and blanket sitka forests - do not even make economic sense. The first two are utterly dependent on subsidies, and the latter are only there because the cost of extraction often exceeds the timber value. Deer numbers are at an all time high due to the absence of large predators and the policies of some sporting estates, and natural forest regeneration is prevented by deer browsing. Some of our wild land, in biodiversity terms, is almost sterile.

This book presents a hopeful vision of returning some of our wild areas to a self-willed state. I know many will dismiss the author as a fantasist but the ideas presented are reasoned and grounded in science. He is fully prepared to reject ideas which clearly would not work (re-introducing the most dangerous megafauna, re-wilding productive farmland, or return to a Mesolithic hunter gatherer lifestyle). He recognizes the significant barriers to feasible re-introductions.

This work is long overdue. The work of Trees for Life in re-establishing the Caledonian forest, the Knapdale beaver re-introductions, the phenomenal public interest in Springwatch, the boom in wildlife tourism all make the need for a serious discussion on where we are going, and why, essential.

Monbiot alludes to the strange feeling of familiarity when, for the first time, he put a deer carcass over his shoulders. I think he is describing what Sigurd Olson called `racial memory' and this is a deep concept. Our brains must retain some hunter-gatherer hard wiring. The human fondness for open fires, the way people who have never drawn a bow before do so quite naturally, the desire to see forests and foreshore - all these things hint at something which is still buried somewhere in our heads.

Had we almost, but not quite, eradicated the wolf three centuries ago, the remaining wolves would be massively protected and their habitat conserved. But because they are gone, people shrug and accept it. The concerns of many Britons about wolves are not shared by the Scandinavians and other Europeans who still happily co-exist with what must be the finest symbol of wildness. This book has the most detailed and comprehensive review of re-introduction benefits and risks I have ever seen.

There have been disastrous attempts at rewilding and restoration, and there is a good review of what happens when you give the planet second rate first aid.

The book is a mix of scientific treatise and Monbiot's own experience of the need for wilderness. There is also a chapter on `big cat' sightings which to me does not fit well with the rest of the book. It is nevertheless interesting and typically grounded in science and rationality.

I'm a doctor, and the concept of intervening just enough to allow natural healing processes to take over is familiar to me. Monbiot proposes to do this with our ecosystem and perhaps this book will be the trigger.
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Location: Crieff, Scotland

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