Feral: Rewilding The Land, The Sea, And Human Life
By George Monbiot
In the first paragraph of his latest book, George Monbiot eats a plump and juicy bug. Specifically: a beetle larva that tasted “faintly smoky,” apparently “like alpine butter.” After braving the high seas on his kayak to fish, Monbiot guts his catch and eats a few mackerel—raw, of course. Elsewhere, in a forest, he lifts a dead deer around his shoulders like a sack of potatoes and confesses he “wanted to roar.” Yes, Monbiot, the cerebral and bespectacled British author, has gone primal. In response to a dispiriting feeling of ecological boredom, a detachment from untamed nature, he sets off to find a “richer, rawer life” in his British Isles.
Readers are sure to chuckle at the author’s occasionally overwrought excursions on the wild side. Yet Monbiot is on to something, and mostly this is a highly analytical and richly researched book. He does not have more zoos in mind. Rather, Monbiot proposes the “rewilding” of public spaces, whereby large areas could be ecologically resuscitated to some of their former glory and then allowed to develop and change of their own accord without further defilement by economic development or the micromanagement of conservationists. The goal is accessible wildness.
Monbiot clamours for the reintroduction of lynx, beavers, bears and wolves back to Britain. After all, he reminds us that it was only 100,000 years ago that hippos and lions prowled the land where London’s Trafalgar Square now stands. True to his penchant for provocation, Monbiot decries Britain’s “white plague” of sheep, ahistorical conservationist tyrants, Britain’s tiny and ecologically indifferent landholding class, status-quo-ensuring farm subsidies, and plenty more.
Monbiot accepts that rewilding cannot proceed or succeed without ample public support. Costs require consent; change requires a constituency. It very well may be that we have become so alienated from nature that we can no longer sufficiently value it. This is lame. Wolves are cool. A few more sheep might bite the dust, but this could be a small price to pay for enough fresh-aired awe to pry our fingers from our remote controls.