By Stephen Moss | Square Peg | Hardback | April 2016 | 294 Pages | ISBN: 9780224095655
The Publisher’s View: Britain’s wildlife is in trouble. Wild creatures that have lived here for thousands of years are disappearing, because of pollution and persecution, competition with alien species, changing farming and forestry practices, and climate change.
It’s not just rare creatures such as the Scottish wildcat or the red squirrel that are vanishing. Hares and hedgehogs, skylarks and water voles, even the humble house sparrow, are in freefall.
But now, at last, there is hope. In Wild Kingdom, Stephen Moss tells a different story. He has travelled the length and breadth of the United Kingdom to see just how Britons are fighting back to save the wildlife they love. In Newcastle, he sees otters that have returned to the river Tyne and red kites flying over the Metro centre; in Devon, beavers on the River Otter; and in London, peregrines – the fastest living creature on the planet – which have taken up residence in the capital.
Elsewhere in the British countryside things are changing too. What were once nature-free zones are being ‘rewilded’; giving our wild creatures the space they need – not just to survive, but also to thrive.
As Britain’s wildlife begins its long, slow fightback, perhaps, Stephen Moss argues, we are beginning to realise that nature is no longer a bolt-on luxury – and that it is absolutely essential for our well being, both as individuals and as a nation.
Other Views: “An absorbing quest into the state of British wildlife today.”
– The Bookseller
The Author: Stephen Moss is a naturalist, broadcaster, television producer and author. In a distinguished career at the BBC Natural History Unit his credits included Springwatch, Birds Britannica and The Nature of Britain. His books include A Bird in the Bush, A Sky Full of Starlings, The Bumper Book of Nature and Wild Hares and Hummingbirds. Originally from London, he now lives with his wife and children on the Somerset Levels.
Fatbirder View: I hope the response to this book is wider and more positively reinforcing than it has so far been. This is definitely Stephen Moss’s most important book but also an important contribution to the building lobby of those wanting to see our countryside looked after rather better than it has been of late.
There is, of course, much about this book that is positive, not least Stephen’s view that there are changes for the better beginning to happen. His description of some of the current heroes of the countryside from conservationists to ordinary farmers with an extraordinary commitment to wildlife gives us both evidence that some people care, but also that you can run successful, profitable farms and bring back birds and other wildlife from the brink.
I know that when I write about something that I passionately care about I write my best prose and that is clearly true of Stephen too. His love of wild things and wild places is very evident. But he is an educator too. His background in documentary TV makes it a given that he wants to tell a rounded story and if you read the chapter on woodland you will see a great example. This is no prissy tree hugger with a rose-coloured backward pointing lens. He makes sure that we all understand that the ‘natural world’ we see is actually one that has been bent to man’s will for millennia. The truly wild is virtually unknown in these islands as we have been managing them for centuries. Take off these rosy specs and its evident that the choice is between good and bad management even if part of that management is to leave unmanaged corners.
Like many of us Stephen is calling for sensitivity and sense. We are not just guilty of crimes against nature if we fill in ponds, tear out hedgerows and cover the land in chemicals but are fools to ourselves. Woodland is a living lung, a literal watershed and a refuge for wildlife, but it is also necessary as a place of leisure and restoration of our souls in a frantic world.
Stephen leads us up hill and down dale, across the farmland though the woods and down the river to the sea to show us all what is wrong and what is right about the management of this precious isle and I for one thank him for it.
This is an easy read in terms of style but a hard lesson in terms of the urgency for action. He shows us what we can do and in some cases are doing to restore and better manage what we collectively own. For me the most important bit of people power we have shown was our outrage when the government sought to sell off the forest. We put our collective foot down… and we learned a valuable lesson… we can make a difference if we show how much we care.
Read Wild Kingdom to be angered but also to be inspired; there is hope for nature’s future if we care enough to eliminate our worst practices and learn from today’s best practitioners.
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