No, it’s not Bruce Springsteen.
Any of you lot heard of George Monbiot? Well, you should. I discovered him a few weeks ago, introduced, funnily enough by my poetry tutor, who sent us the opening chapter of his book ‘Feral’ for a reason I’ve now forgotten. It might have been in relation to a discussion of the pastoral, but that would seem to open up an entirely different, and, in time-honoured Finn tradition, an absurdly lengthly, discussion. I shall therefore ignore that for the time being. Mr Monbiot read zoology at Oxford, and judging from what I’ve read, had a pretty amazing adventurous life back in the day. He is now a regular writer for the Guardian. He’s also a fan of Yellowstone National Park, for which I have an unconditional love, so brownie points there.
I read that first chapter and almost immediately bought the whole book. It’s not unfair to say that a common stereotype associated with environmentalists is that they lack a cohesive vision, and their work more or less equates to a lot of yelling and some photos of dead polar bears with the word ‘CRUELTY’ emblazoned across them . Greenpeace do often come across as a bunch of nutters. George Monbiot, however, is a man possessed of a vision, and it’s utterly enthralling. He argues that the conservation movement in Britain, while well-intentioned, is all wrong. When viewed from an ecological or evolutionary perspective it does seem a bit strange: why should we strive to keep our national parks preserved exactly as they are, frozen in the moment they were given their status? After all, the majority of Britain’s national parks are overwhelmed by sheep farming in the highlands, a practice that, according to Monbiot, is not economically viable, dependent on government subsidies, and destructive both to the potential variety of flora and fauna and to surrounding communities, which face higher risks of flooding without the trees that would otherwise bear the brunt of the rainfall, had the landscape not been ‘sheep-wrecked’ as Monbiot puts it. So what should people be doing instead? Not conserving, but rewilding.
It’s a fascinating idea. I thought I’d let the man himself explain it:
“Rewilding recognises that nature consists not just of a collection of species, but also of their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with the physical environment. It understands that to keep an ecosystem in a state of arrested development, to preserve it as if it were a jar of pickles, is to protect something which bears little relationship to the natural world.”
There’s also a strong suggestion that as humans, we should also look to rewild our own lives, that, just like April Wheeler in ‘Revolutionary Road’, our Western monoculture has resulted in what Monbiot labels ‘ecological boredom’. Finally! I’ve been diagnosed! It’s ecological boredom that I’ve suffered for the last few months. This was the other central facet of the book that I closely identified. I’m stuck with this incredibly irritating longing for wild places, for spontaneous high-risk adventures, and that vaguely defined ‘something more’. I find it very odd looking back that I wrote this about the volunteer managers, older volunteers who acted as supervisors for the others, in a Costa Rican jungle in February, because it’s just as relevant to me now:
“There’s often a defiance to the VMs, or a disillusionment with some aspect of the lives that they’ve left behind. All of Emma’s possessions are in a London storage unit. This hadn’t factored in my motives for doing this. I’m not disillusioned by my former life at all, but I’m now slightly worried that I may be when I finally return.”
Sometimes I wish I’d just written about the good stuff. But it is very useful in helping to understand my mixed feelings about coming back. And George Monbiot’s incredible book ‘Feral’ helped to reconcile my longing for ‘wildness’ with my current position. It’s almost impossible to do justice to how detailed, how visionary, how inspiring it is to share in the man’s view of our place in the natural world. Anyway, George Monbiot, someone we should really love more. There’s a list that is pinned above my desk. It’s admittedly not too crazy, but I try to check as much off that list each day as I can, in an obviously, and admittedly, problematic attempt to live a little wildly. I thought I could share it with you. I touched on it a bit in ‘Three Hundred and Sixty Four’ a while back.
- Become the photographer you wish you were.
- Learn to climb.
- Cycle as much as you can.
- Read books, stay interesting.
- Save for experiences, not things.
- Be nice.
- Share what you create- even if it’s rubbish. That way, at least you’ll have proof.
- Keep in shape.
- Say yes to everything- again, even if it’s rubbish.
- Do everything in your power to keep applying the reading experience to your own life.
- Nothing interesting ever came out of the comfort zone.
- People get restless- clear your head.
- Embrace the mess.
- There’s always something you could be doing.
- Be ready.
” ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson
This is George Monbiot’s website, show him some love guys. And please, please, read that book. Best thing I’ve read on my English course so far, despite being probably the least relevant thing to my English course.
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