George Monbiot’s new book Feral puts forward a radically unconventional philosophy of nature conservation—“rewilding”.
Instead of seeking to conserve individual species in fragmented ecosystem, he argues for an emphasis on an evolving and inter-connected ecosystem.
Much of what passes for wilderness in Britain is anything but. Even what we think of as natural has been changed beyond recognition by human intervention since the last ice age.
Most of the large animals are long gone, along with the primeval forests that evolved alongside them.
Grazing has reduced the environment on much of Britain’s hillside to a “sheep-scraped misery”.
Monbiot argues that this has left us deeply alienated from our environment.
Following the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park in the US, he calls for bringing back “keystone” species, such as beavers in Scotland. These could have a cascade effect on the whole ecosystem.
Monbiot attacks obstacles to rewilding, such as the massive concentration of land ownership and policies from the Highland Clearances to the Common Agricultural Policy.
And he points out the concept’s sinister uses, from white colonialists displacing people to create safari parks in Kenya to the Nazis’ unrealised plans for Eastern Europe.
But Monbiot isn’t able to put forward an alternative. His surprisingly dialectical view of nature isn’t matched by a vision of social change.
When he moved to an isolated part of Wales it was a political decision to withdraw from the movements that could realise his vision.
His tastes match his privileged lifestyle, and his writings are steeped in pessimism.
Feral by George Monbiot. Published by Allen Lane