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Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding, by George Monbiot

1 Jun 2013

Michael Viney, The Irish Times

It’s time to get rid of the sheep and re-create the wilderness, argues a leading environmental activist

To read this seminal, subversive, sometimes intoxicating book could mean never to look at our landscape in quite the same way again. Take that marvellous drift of spring bluebells flooding the woodland floor with colour. What a monocultural menace it is, after all, allowed to crowd out every competitive plant. How much better nature does it in Bialowieza, the ancient, unspoilt Polish forest, where gouging snouts of wild boars and sharp hooves of wild bison contrive a lovely, mixed, flowery Persian carpet.

And take those lofty hills of the west, with their nobly bare plateaux. As farming shrinks from the uplands, let’s get rid of the sheep (never a native European herbivore) and plant with Scots pine, oak and birch for martens, squirrels and songbirds. In Britain, at least, add lynx and wolverines, beavers and moose – even, conceivably, revive the ancient elephants with straight (not curly) tusks that once shaped Europe’s woodlands.

As for the sea, just keep the trawlers off it.

“Rewilding” is where we’re at, the sudden, uplifting buzzword of postconservation philosophy. Or not so much philosophy as fiercely felt intuition. Nature must be set free, wherever we can find room in this overpopulated world. It will help us liberate the richer, rawer urges still haunting our genes. George Monbiot’s genes, anyway.

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