Our bookseller David reviews this interesting non-fiction book about the transformative effects of nature when its largely left to its own devices…
Combining personal insight and experience with a mixture of devastating and uplifting facts, Isabella Tree’s Wilding is an unusual but powerful beast. From a fabulous section on the names for different types of mud (gubber, a thick black mud of rotting matter, is my personal favourite) to beautiful descriptions of the largely lost calls of mating turtle doves, this book has something for everyone who admires nature.
This isn’t just a whimsical book of loosely linked personal experiences on Knepp Farm, though; Tree combines these elements with scouring evidence-based critiques of industrial farming (something which she and her partner used to engage in). From the Common Agricultural Policy adopted by EU member states to the anti-nature prejudices that still shape the way we think “the countryside” should look, all are assessed in a thoughtful, sensible manner which manages to never sacrifice readability.
While there are criticisms of the book, such as the occasional somewhat clumsy turn of phrase or the failure to mention the need for increasing social access to land (a problem that stems from unequal large scale land ownership), the drive of the book is admirable and the main points articulated well. Tree is a harsh critic of intensive agriculture and its effects on soil quality and the health of the animals that thrive or suffer on it. She points out the successes and failures that they have experienced on Knepp with admirable honesty, while laying out a potential blueprint for how to help nature and humanity get back into sync.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is keen to find out ways that change can be implemented, especially with regards to “wilding” their own areas. While not everything in the book is applicable to the majority of readers (most urban readers won’t enjoy access to large amounts of land for instance, although the Burrells are doing more than most with their privileged position), Wilding does point the way for possible change. It is a successful rebuttal to conservative ideas around conservation, offering occasionally radical insight into how things could be done differently by governments and, most importantly, by ourselves.
Links for potential activists:
Following on from our Book Group on Tuesday 25th, a few of our members had some recommendations for groups that you can join if you’d like to help implement rewilding schemes. Links to a few suggested are below: