Sunday, 20 August 2017

Rewild: The Art of Returning to Nature - By Nick Baker

In recent years my understanding of nature conservation is shifting. It is being moved by a growing groundswell that seems to postulate a new approach. The old movements of the 1980's and 1990's for nature conservation with neat heavily managed nature reserves protecting a collection of core species is starting to make way for larger ideas surrounding ecosystem services and rewilding.

A brand new approach to conservation and its relationship to society seems to be entering gestation and it is unclear if this still a rather nebulous idea will grow and flourish or arrive, forgive the imagery, stillborn.

The concept of rewilding has been of immense interest to me since I first read about the reintroduction of Wolves to Yellowstone National Park in the US. It led me to read the excellent book, Feral, by George Monbiot back in 2014 and reviewed here on this blog. So it was with some interest that I saw a review of a new book in the BBC Wildlife - ReWild: The Art of Returning to Nature by Nick Baker.

Nick Baker has always been a favourite presenter and ecologist of mine. I remember him from his time on the Really Wild Show and have loved many of his many series. His love of all kinds of creature is instantly relatable and his enthusiasm, knowledge and passion shine out brightly. I quickly ordered the book and finished it today.

To start off I must confess the book wasn't exactly what I was expecting. From the title, I assumed there was more information on the case studies of rewilding and the natural approach to nature conservation and this was indeed referenced but it wasn't the main thesis of the book. Nick used rewilding as an 'in' to discuss firstly how detached how we as animals are detached from the wild life around us and then to reintroduce us to them by taking us step by step through our five senses and explaining how they can be tuned or rather re tuned to nature.

He extols the virtues of silence, the night, walking, tasting, hearing and listening; and yes listening and hearing are two different things. As I worked through the book some chapters resonated better with me than others, but Nicks charm filled style of writing carries you along and his anecdotes and personal accounts colouring each section. It got me thinking that an autobiography of his travels would be interesting as, if you count up the countries he mentions throughout the book you'll very nearly have the full UN membership. In fact, I cannot find an autobiography but hope fervently that one day he will catalogue his experiences.

The book overall then despite not being what I expected was a joy to read for the most part. It is more a  book for a dabbler in conservation or perhaps for those that have completely lost touch with their wild side rather than an expert or experienced nature lover. Nevertheless, it encouraged me to sit more and watch and has some excellent ideas for improving fieldwork.

You can buy the book from all good bookshops - and Amazon