GEORGE MONBIOT HAS become known as the uncompromising and hard-hitting leading light of the rewilding movement. John Miles caught up with him…
BW: You have written several books on subjects ranging from politics to the Amazon. What made you write your latest book, Feral? GM: It was born of frustration at both the dire state of our ecosystems and the tedium of my own life, which was a symptom, I believe, of ecological boredom: a lack of contact with sufficiently interesting nature.
BW: Feral has upset the Country Landowners’ Association and National Farmers’ Union, not to mention a few conservationists. What do you say to them? GM: I understand why they are upset: it’s a direct challenge to the land management practices of these groups, which are, unfortunately, far too similar. Some conservation groups seem to be engaged in little more than slightly modified farming. The idea that we could restore the kind of wildlife that farming has erased from the landscape seems to be beyond them: even in places where farming is sustained only with extravagant subsidies, they focus on the few species that have survived its impacts, rather than the far richer ecosystem that rewilding would permit.
BW: You love sea-kayaking. What are your favourite birds while out on the water? GM: Some of the most exciting times at sea for me are when I find myself in the middle of a feeding frenzy: with Gannets plummeting into the water around my kayak, shearwaters swirling around me and, sometimes, dolphins breaching among them.
BW: In your book The Age of Consent you talk about a world parliament. Do you see Birdlife International doing that job for birds? GM: There’s no doubt that, if we are to be effective, we have to work beyond borders. That applies to almost all issues, but particular to the conservation of highly mobile species. I greatly admire Birdlife International and the breadth of its perspective.
BW: A third of the Lake District is owned by ourselves, the citizens of the UK, via the National Trust. Do you think they are doing enough to bring back the real landscape? GM: Not at all. They have a joint project in Ennerdale where good things are happening, but I was surprised, when I visited, by how small it is. Elsewhere in the Lakes their land is characterised by extreme degradation: it has been thoroughly sheep-wrecked. Places which would once have been thickly forested hills, which would have had natural treelines and a rich and varied flora and fauna, have been reduced to close-cropped turf
Four beauties! Iridescent Waldrapp’s catching some rays