Is nature a boys' club?

Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding - George Monbiot

I first encountered George Monbiot on Frankie Boyle’s New World Order. His soliloquy about radical environmentalism excited me so much I bought this book.


I have to admit that although many of the subjects discussed within the 268 pages interested me, I never got the same feeling of excitement while reading it.


Monbiot’s prose is frequently self-indulgent and overly poetic for what is presented as an academic work pitched at concerned lay-people. The impression left is that he considers himself the intellectual superior of almost everyone, especially his readers.


He makes interesting speculations, for example that big cat sightings in the UK reflect the unmet needs of civilised people, but even here he manages to sound condescending.


“As our lives have become tamer and more predictable, as the abundance and diversity of nature have declined, as our physical challenges have diminished to the point at which the greatest trial of strength and ingenuity we face is opening a badly designed pack of nuts, could these imaginary creatures have brought something we miss?”


The humour of this statement should be clear, however placed within the surrounding pages it feels dismissive of his audience’s achievements compared to his own. Monbiot describes his daring, regularly facing off with nature in chapters throughout the book. In this way he exempts himself from his statement. The greatest trial of strength many women will face is childbirth, but this isn’t mentioned. So who are the presumed Don Quixote’s who battle with packets of nuts? Yes he did piss me off in this way quite frequently, and yes I do have a sense of humour even though I’m a feminist. :P


Less contentious for me were his points about the controlling nature of man-made, politically sustained and media perpetuated fear.


“The indoor world is far more dangerous than the outdoor world of which parents are so frightened, the almost non-existent stranger danger replaced by a real and insidious estrangement danger. Children, confined to their homes, become estranged from each other and nature. Obesity, rickets, asthma, myopia and decline in heart and lung function all appear to be associated with the sedentary indoor life.”


His description and analysis about the insanity of our Common Agricultural Policy was particularly eye-opening.


“There is no requirement to produce anything; you must merely stop the land from reverting to nature, by either ploughing it, grazing it or simply cutting the resurgent vegetation. The purpose is to prevent the restoration of the ecosystem.”


In conclusion the book is worth reading but you may, like me, finish reading it with an acute dislike of the author.