Feral is a non-fiction book on the subject of rewilding. Rewilding is allowing large spaces of land to return to an uncontrolled state. It is the uncontrolled portion of the definition that is especially important to Monbiot. He suggests that when we try to control how the ecosystem will be revived, that we limit our vision. We set the bar too low and fail to see the possible complexities that may arise. The job of the human species is to re-introduce some animals into areas that they are extinct or scare and let nature find its own balance.
The examples he uses are drawn from around the world, but especially from Scotland where large tracts of land are being protected from over grazing by deer or sheep. As the grazing slows the wilderness that has hidden for centuries begins to return and it continues to surprise and delight.
This is a book that is full of lyrical prose describing Monbiot’s connection to the land and the wilderness. Many times the connection is one of a spiritual nature as he discovers in himself the memory of a richer place than where we now live. What is equally clear in his writing is the hope. This is no doom and gloom book of how we have irrevocably ruined our home. Rather Monbiot suggests that the ecology is able to recover in strange and unexpected ways if we give it a minimum of help and a minimum of interference. He waxes poetic about the possibility of returning lions and elephants to Europe in a similar way to how the wolf and bear have made a comeback in several countries.
One change can cause a whole raft of changes. He uses the example of beavers helping rivers to heal, and the regeneration of the Yellowstone ecology after the re-introduction of wolves there. He admits that the changes won’t all be popular, but he argues that in the long run we will be richer for the rewilded spaces than we are with the mono-cultures that so many people accept as ‘wilderness’.
This is a fascinating and enthralling book to read. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a glimpse of hope about the earth’s future.