Bookshelf: Nature

I’m a bookworm. I believe everyone has particular art form that moves them and for me it’s definitely the written word, above paintings, sculpture, music even. So I thought I’d share books I’ve enjoyed on topics related to sustainability, the planet and change. There are a huge number of books written on these topics, so it’s not comprehensive by any means, just some suggestions if you’re interesting in reading more in these areas. To start with, here’s a small selection of books about nature and biodiversity that I’ve enjoyed and found easy to get into, some that I’ve inhaled because I loved them so much.

I ate up this book! Admittedly I read it over Christmas while I was off work and so had plenty of reading time but I found it super interesting and easy to read. My lucky family were provided with new bee facts or stories at every meal time or car journey.

It gives a history of bees starting from the beginning of their evolution roughly 125 million years ago to how they are faring today and threats they face in the future. Lots of great facts, stories and inspirational people as well as Thor’s personal bee experiences out in the field. I’ve read a few bee books in the past (and spent much time watching them) and learnt a lot from this book. For example, I didn’t know they were evolved from wasps (at some point a wasp turned vegetarian and became a bee!) or about how honey was part of humans evolving.

Tony Juniper used to work for WWF and is now Chair of Natural England having spent decades campaigning on environmental issues so he knows a thing or two about nature in the UK. I heard him speak last year and he’s inspirational. This book is a revelation about the ‘services’ nature provides us that most of us don’t think about. From flood defences to storing carbon to the food we eat and more, Tony does a great job at explaining why we wouldn’t exist without the rest of the natural world.

This book contains one of my favourite quotes:

We live in a magnificent yet wounded world. Despite all of the rampant destruction and abuse, it remains a magnificent world filled with awe and wonder. If you’re not in awe, you’re not paying attention.

I think Marc Bekoff considers animals in a different way to many people and a way that some people might find hard to get their heads around. He refers to them as “nonhuman animals” and reminds us that we are animals (mammals) too. The science is clear that animals are sentient beings and Marc asks you to act in a way consistent with this. Not just thinking that they can feel pain and joy, but that they are capable of caring and compassion. The book explores what you’d normally think of as rewilding – restoring habitats and creating connections between habitats – and also asks us to think differently about our place in nature, how we should treat all animals as individuals and learn to co-exist with them, not aim to dominate them. It really made me think, this book. About animals, about the concept of “nonhuman animals”, about how we connect with them and about how we could get to a world where we really can co-exist and human animals don’t cause damage to every other species on our planet.

In a world of depressing news about how our ecosystems are being destroyed directly or indirectly by human activity, this book is a nice balance between recognising we have problems and also highlighting where things are going well: farmers who are considering biodiversity as well as the yield from their crops, how peregrine falcons are adapting fabulously to urban settings and the re-introduction of beavers in Devon (and back to Tony’s book), which is improving the flood defences provided by rivers. I think often people think about exotic places for wildlife conservation, Africa, Borneo, the Arctic, all of which are of course important, but that shouldn’t detract from the importance of local wildlife too. The UK’s wildlife is in seriously poor shape and getting a bit of inspiration from Stephen definitely helps me to stay motivated to do more.

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