Synopses & Reviews
This may be hard to believe but it is very likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals, birds and trees in the eastern United States today than anywhere on the planet at any time in history. For nature lovers, this should be wonderful news -- unless, perhaps, you are one of more than 4,000 drivers who will hit a deer today, your child’s soccer field is carpeted with goose droppings, coyotes are killing your pets, the neighbor’s cat has turned your bird feeder into a fast-food outlet, wild turkeys have eaten your newly-planted seed corn, beavers have flooded your driveway, or bears are looting your garbage cans.
For 400 years, explorers, traders, and settlers plundered North American wildlife and forests in an escalating rampage that culminated in the late 19th century’s “era of extermination.” By 1900, populations of many wild animals and birds had been reduced to isolated remnants or threatened with extinction, and worry mounted that we were running out of trees. Then, in the 20th century, an incredible turnaround took place. Conservationists outlawed commercial hunting, created wildlife sanctuaries, transplanted isolated species to restored habitats and imposed regulations on hunters and trappers. Over decades, they slowly nursed many wild populations back to health.
But after the Second World War something happened that conservationists hadn’t foreseen: sprawl. People moved first into suburbs on urban edges, and then kept moving out across a landscape once occupied by family farms. By 2000, a majority of Americans lived in neither cities nor country but in that vast in-between. Much of sprawl has plenty of trees and its human residents offer up more and better amenities than many wild creatures can find in the wild: plenty of food, water, hiding places, and protection from predators with guns. The result is a mix of people and wildlife that should be an animal-lover’s dream-come-true but often turns into a sprawl-dweller’s nightmare.
Nature Wars offers an eye-opening look at how Americans lost touch with the natural landscape, spending 90 percent of their time indoors where nature arrives via television, films and digital screens in which wild creatures often behave like people or cuddly pets. All the while our well-meaning efforts to protect animals allowed wild populations to burgeon out of control, causing damage costing billions, degrading ecosystems, and touching off disputes that polarized communities, setting neighbor against neighbor. Deeply researched, eloquently written, counterintuitive and often humorous Nature Wars will be the definitive book on how we created this unintended mess.
"In his latest, journalist Sterba (Frankie's Place: A Love Story) provocatively and persuasively argues that just at the moment when humankind has distanced itself irrevocably from nature, its behavior patterns have put people in conflict with a natural world that they don't know how to deal with. Dividing his work into three parts ('Forest People,' 'Wild Beasts,' and 'The Denatured Life'), Sterba boldly argues against the prevailing touchy-feely view of nature. Replete with statistics and a historical understanding of the cycles of humankind's interaction with nature, Sterba tells of forests being cleared and animals hunted to extinction (until the conservation movement stepped in to curtail the damage), and people, already disconnected from the land, sprawled out into new artificial living arrangements that allowed 'nuisance' animals to thrive. The deer, beavers, and brown bears that appear in exurbanites' backyards have dire consequences for the ecological balance and our daily existence. Sterba takes aim at those who protest hunting as a means of population control, movies that anthropomorphize animals into harmless creatures, and Americans who no longer understand nature. Though Sterba can be self-righteous, the book presents a valuable counternarrative to the mainstream view of nature-human interaction." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“As a passionate polemic, Feral could not be more rigorously researched, more elegantly delivered, or more timely. We need such big thinking for our own sakes and those of our children. Bring on the wolves and whales, I say, and, in the words of Maurice Sendak, let the wild rumpus start.”
"The world knows George Monbiot mostly from his powerful and perceptive journalism. But this is a whole different order of writing and thinking, a primal account of an unstifled world."
"George Monbiot is always original--both in the intelligence of his opinions and the depth and rigour of his research. In this unusual book he presents a persuasive argument for a new future for the planet, one in which we consciously progress from just conserving nature to actively rebuilding it."
"Feral has really opened my mind to the history and possibilities of our landscape. It reflects a very real need in us all right now to be released from our claustrophobic monoculture and sense of powerlessness. To break the straight lines into endless branches. To free our land from its absent administrators. To rewild both the landscape and ourselves. It is the most positive and daring environmental book I have read. In order to change our world you have to be able to see a better one. I think George has done that."
"Monbiot is at his lyrical best sharing his own very private encounters with the natural world. Then his craving for a 'richer, rawer life' becomes not just compelling but irresistible."
"Monbiot challenges the reader to think more deeply on the subject of rewilding. . . . Throughout the book, Monbiot's lyrical and provocative tales of his efforts to reengage with the wild stimulate the senses and arouse an innate urge to affiliate with nature. . . . Monbiot takes you on an emotional roller coaster, at times plunging you into troughs of despair as he discusses the bleak plight of much of our wildlife and, at others, raising you up on peaks of hope as he discusses how much of the degradation can be reversed. . . . Part personal journal, part restoration ecology primer, Feral popularizes the concept of rewilding and will likely prompt wildlife managers, landowners, policy-makers, and the general public to question their perception of the natural world and its role in our lives."
As an investigative journalist, Monbiot found a mission in his ecological boredom, that of learning what it might take to impose a greater state of harmony between himself and nature. He was not one to romanticize undisturbed, primal landscapes, but rather in his attempts to satisfy his cravings for a richer, more authentic life, he came stumbled into the world of restoration and rewilding. When these concepts were first introduced in 2011, very recently, they focused on releasing captive animals into the wild. Soon the definition expanded to describe the reintroduction of animal and plant species to habitats from which they had been excised.
Some people began using it to mean the rehabilitation not just of particular species, but of entire ecosystems: a restoration of wilderness. Rewilding recognizes that nature consists not just of a collection of species but also of their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with the physical environment. Ecologists have shown how the dynamics within communities are affected by even the seemingly minor changes in species assemblages. Predators and large herbivores have transformed entire landscapes, from the nature of the soil to the flow of rivers, the chemistry of the oceans, and the composition of the atmosphere. The complexity of earth systems is seemingly boundless.
To be an environmentalist early in the twenty-first century is always to be defending, arguing, acknowledging the hurdles we face in our efforts to protect wild places and fight climate change. But lets be honest: hedging has never inspired anyone.
So what if we stopped hedging? What if we grounded our efforts to solve environmental problems in hope instead, and let nature make our case for us? Thats what George Monbiot does in Feral, a lyrical, unabashedly romantic vision of how, by inviting nature back into our lives, we can simultaneously cure our ecological boredom” and begin repairing centuries of environmental damage. Monbiot takes readers on an enchanting journey around the world to explore ecosystems that have been rewilded”: freed from human intervention and allowedin some cases for the first time in millenniato resume their natural ecological processes. We share his awe, and wonder, as he kayaks among dolphins and seabirds off the coast of Wales and wanders the forests of Eastern Europe, where lynx and wolf packs are reclaiming their ancient hunting grounds. Through his eyes, we see environmental successand begin to envision a future world where humans and nature are no longer separate and antagonistic, but are together part of a single, healing world.
Monbiots commitment is fierce, his passion infectious, his writing compelling. Readers willing to leave the confines of civilization and join him on his bewitching journey will emerge changedand ready to change our world for the better.
About the Author
JIM STERBA has been a foreign correspondent and national affairs reporter for more than four decades for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He is the author of Frankie’s Place: A Love Story, about summers in Maine with his wife, the author Frances FitzGerald.
Table of Contents
Part One Forest People 1
Chapter One Th e Spruce Illusion 5
Chapter Two An Epidemic of Trees 19
Chapter Three Sprawl 46
Part Two Wild Beasts 53
Chapter Four Th e Fifty- Pound Rodent 59
Chapter Five Th e Elegant Ungulate 86
Chapter Six Lawn Carp 118
Chapter Seven Gobblers 146
Chapter Eight Teddies 161
Part Three Denatured Life 187
Chapter Nine Doers to Viewers 189
Chapter Ten Roadkill 206
Chapter Eleven Feathered Friends 220
Chapter Twelve Feral Felines 239