‘Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm’ is a compelling book! It reads like a cross between a novel and a natural history textbook. Isabella Tree tells the story of the Knepp estate as it evolved from a failing livestock and arable farm into a vibrant wild landscape. Her husband, Charlie (Sir Charles) Burrell, inherited the estate (which had been in the Burrell family since 1789) from his grandparents in 1987. The estate includes Knepp Castle, designed by John Nash with a park in the style of Humphry Repton and the farm that was loosing money.
Having tried to intensify the farm with the intention of making it profitable, Charlie finds that the hoped for profit doesn’t materialise and so he sells off the dairy business and puts out the arable land to contract. He manages to secure funding to restore the Repton park and introduces fallow deer. In 2002, he informes DEFRA of his intention to establish ‘a biodiverse wilderness area in the Low Weald of Sussex’. This is the beginning of the process of (re)wilding that is graphically described through its many phases throughout the book.
I spotted this book about the Fens, having finished reading ‘The Fens’ by Francis Pryor, which is about the rich archeological excavations in the Fens that have been carried out over fairly recent years. My interest in these books stems partly from being brought up in Peterborough and remembering weekend trips to the family caravan. These trips meant travelling through the Fens, past Thorney and Guyhirn on long, level straight roads across the Fens to Heacham, Hunstanton, Wells and beyond, in the undulating countryside that adjoins the coastal salt marshes of North Norfolk.
What became clear about Imperial Mud by James Boyce, is that it is a history of the Fennish (a word created by Boyce to describe the indigenous people of the Fens) resistance to the draining of the Fens.
Molly Scott Cato embarked on a mammoth task when she aimed to explain in depth the concept of a bioregional economy. Her book ‘The Bioregional Economy’ is subtitled ‘Land, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Somehow I expected a book about an economy that is entirely locked into a geographical region and its geology and landscape. I suppose I had in mind the country divided into watershed defined regions/economies. But that is not the whole story! While there is something about geography in the definition of bioregionalism as developed in this book, as is also explained in it, there cannot really be hard and fast boundaries in bioregionalism. Continue reading Thoughts about an ecologically benign future from Molly Scott Cato
This is Bill Deval’s third and best book about Deep Ecology. Starting with a semi-autobiographical history of the second half of the twentieth century, he recounts the cultural development of America, based on a confident profligacy that was ultimately increasingly questioned by the realisation of the environmental damage that it was causing.
This sets the tone for the book, which aims to analyse various aspects of people’s lives so as to propose how they may be aligned as close as possible to Deep Ecology principles. In a chapter headed “philosophical Roots for Greening our Lifestyles”, Devall first examines the nature of the idea “lifestyle” and then goes on to draw on the various wisdoms of Deep Ecology proponents from Barry Commoner to Joanna Macy and from Arne Naess to Aldo Leopold. What is unique about this book, however, is the way it offers advice on how to experience nature in our lives, how to think on a grand ecological scale (Thinking like a watershed/bioregion) and then how to bring valid ecological principles into our home making.
First published in 1972, but still highly relevant, ’The Comedy of Survival’ by Joseph W Meeker does not fit ‘comfortably’ within the normal pattern of books on nature and the environment. In fact its main thrust is within the arts and in particular literature. What the author is aiming to do is point in the direction of a synthesis between art and ecological engagement and philosophy. I have not come across another book which tackles this complex and difficult subject area, for which it must be a seminal text. Meeker, however, touches on deep aspects of our attitude to and understanding of nature and the environment as he tries to develop what he sees as an explanation of our fundamental attitudes to the more than human world through artistic conventions. Along the way, his thoughts certainly challenge the reader’s preconceptions about how we understand and relate to nature. Continue reading Art and ecology discussed in a fundamental way
Published in 1995, this book is a comprehensive compendium of writing about the Deep Ecology movement that emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century. This is the best book I have read about the movement, because of its breadth of coverage and the selection of important writers included. Covering such subjects as ‘What is Deep Ecology’ and ‘The Historical Roots of Deep Ecology’, the book also includes key texts by Arne Naess, who first defined the idea of Deep Ecology, and chapters covering related movements, the political aspects and critical writings on the differences between ‘deep’ and ‘shallow’ ecology.
Havergey; Burnside, John; Little Toller Books, 2017
I have to say that I chose this book to read because I was seduced by its cover. I can only add that it turned out to be a whimsical and seemingly gentle novella, but one that in the end packs a big punch. If I write too much here about why I’ve added it to my list of ‘influential’ books, I fear that I will spoil its impact. Environmentalists and ecologists please read!
Kate Raworth’s Book is written in a language nearest to the one that economists understand, but at the same time sets out truths (such as that economics is embedded within society and in turn within the ecology of the world) that the culture of economics currently for the most part denies. With its ‘seven ways to think like a 21st century economist’, the book surgically kills off the misguided holy cows of current economics. Continue reading The economics of compassion & survival
Jeremy Lent set out to prove a theory about humanity that interprets the history of the human race as a search for meaning based on certain long-term “big ideas”. Whether he proves this theory or not, this wide ranging account of history and prehistory throughout the world creates a wonderful background for developing an understanding of where we have come from and who we are. Continue reading If you are looking for food for thought, here is a feast!
This is a very readable book. Not because Berry writes in an easy journalistic way, he certainly doesn’t, but because the book feels like someone is just talking to you in a very direct way about their life and values. It makes the reader think hard about the way both s/he and Mr Berry see the world. His point of view is, at the same time, both radical and conservative. It is hard hitting and he certainly doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Continue reading Bluntly expressed, but carefully honed, here are messages that are impossible to deny!