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on 24 July 2017
Essential reading.
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on 25 May 2017
I loved this book; it completely changed my perception.
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on 28 January 2016
Really thought provoking
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on 11 July 2013
Very wise observations and research. I've learn't a lot from the book and it's made me look at current conservation practices in a different way, as in we're doing it from the human way of things rather than what nature wants! Why are we following the current conservation practices and who is making these decisions, please let George Monbiot advise you instead.
Some of it I found depressing and really wonder what the future holds for the UK's natural environment...is there any hope? there needs to be a change in attitude and a revolution.
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on 20 October 2014
This is a really rather good book – not perfect, but one that makes you stop and think ‘do I agree with what I have just read?’

In reality this is almost two books rather than one – the first is about developing a greater connection between people and the land on which they live. This is ‘re-wilding people’. The second is about taking a less interventionist approach to wildlife management, by allowing nature a freer hand to build new ecosystems.

The first is a reasonably well-trodden path - and is based on the assumption that people and the land do better when they are connected. Connection. Interest. Care. Passion. And in the end, survival. This all seems to make sense.

The second theme of the book – actually re-wilding landscape – is probably a little more contentious. Especially as one of the key things that the author suggests in terms of re-wilding the landscape is the re-introduction of large predators – such as wolves – to some ecosystems. While any such introduction would clearly rely on human intervention in its early stages, the idea is to re-establish the kind of ecological processes that have been removed from many ecosystems by humans.

There is little doubt that conventional conservation management is not always successful – with large areas (the book really takes most examples from the UK) being maintained in some sort of agriculture dominated state – the classic example here being the UKs uplands which are often just sheep, deer or grouse maintained habitats, which lack the diversity they once had.

I think there needs to a well informed debate about how land is managed into the future – and this book is as good a place as any to start thinking about what this debate could mean or should include.

Highly recommended.
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on 28 May 2017
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on 2 June 2017
This was recommended to me by an absolute stranger. It's a really interesting read about a subject I have no experience of or particular inclination towards. However, it's completely changed my perspective on how I view agriculture and wildlife.

The prose can be a bit tedious sometimes. It's clear that Monbiot is in love with his surroundings, but sometimes he's descriptions go on a bit too long (although there's some nice imagery in there). I was more interested in the factual and historical information that he was presenting.

It's kind of essential reading to be honest. After you've read it, you kind of want everyone else to do so. Not because you enjoyed it so much, but you get the idea that this arguments/ideas are important and need momentum.
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on 23 September 2013
This review first appeared on [...]

George Monbiot is a well-known environmentalist. He has a regular column in the Guardian newspaper, writes occasionally for a number of other publications (all his articles can be viewed on the clutter free website [...] and a number of books already under his name. As a child, I sometimes dreamed of 'saving the rainforest' and probably for this reason Monbiot became a natural role model as I grew up, even though he quickly destroyed my overly simplistic views of 'good' conservationists vs the 'bad' deforesters. His writing is broad, encapsulating the links between many different elements of what is, invariably, a more complex problem than what first impressions indicate. In the mid 2000s, George Monbiot took-on the 'greatest environmental threat' - climate change - almost head-on in his acclaimed book Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning. This provided motivation for me to seek solutions, not only on some abstract policy level, but in my everyday life.

Fast-forward five years. Instead of fretting over our collective failure to overcome society's enduring addiction to fossil fuels, it is refreshing to see that Monbiot has moved on. Environmental problems are big and, due partly to the long timespans over which they develop, can seem intractible. Instead of discussing the problem, in this case lack of wild or 'self-willed' ecosystems, from an abstract perspective, Monbiot dives into some vivid descriptions of experiences in the wilderness. Contrast this with the monotony of everyday life and it becomes apparent that many people are suffering from ecological boredom. We have got to the point in which opening a poorly designed bag of nuts constitutes the most exciting manual task of the day! The escapism of video games and the many other distractions of the modern world is provided as anecdotal evidence for this, alongside a wealth of peer-reviewed literature on nature deficit disorder provides an undeniable argument: we need to re-engage with nature.

As Monbiot has himself said elsewhere, the underlying concept of this book is a simple one. It is eloquently written, yet succinct and without excessive diversions. The personal story that provides the backdrop to the ideas presented is not self-indulgent, but clear, concise and at times brutal.

Regarding the actual policies that he is proposing, George Monbiot seems to have moved further towards the 'pragmatist' camp of environmentalism since the The Age of Consent, in which global issues are tackled head-on and the real-politik of potential solutions are apparently hammered-out (disclaimer: I've not read the book). Older and perhaps wiser, the solutions in Feral are less complex and eminently more feasible. These include (in the order that they are presented in the book) the return of trees and 'keystone species' such as the moose and otter to low-intensity farmland; a reduction in overgrazing in 'Sheepwrecked' uplands, and the enforcement of 'no fish zones'. All of these could easily have economic benefits that dwarf their costs over time, even for the farmers and fishing industries that currently resist any whiff of environmentally beneficial regulation. The description of whales as a keystone species with the potential to fertilise the seas and sequester large volumes of carbon dioxide in the process in "Rewilding the Sea" was particularly interesting, and supported with ample peer-reviewed literature to persuade even the most hard-nosed 'factivist'.

Ultimately this book is not about facts, though, but about our inbuilt need to interact with nature, the wider benefits this could bring, and practical steps towards making it happen. I heartily recommend this book to anyone: young and old; deep environmentalist or environmental skeptic;high-powered businessman or local forager. The ideas will change the way you think about nature and, at the very least, encourage you get out there more often.
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on 31 May 2013
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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on 30 April 2017
Arrived early.. awesome book!
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