Monday, October 17, 2011

On the Benefits of Exploring your own Backyard

I was recently sent a book to review that brought home to me the great benefit of wildlife blogging – the wonderful way in which it allows people to share their exploration of Nature in their own local patch in a collaborative, mutually supportive way.























The book, On Extinction: How we Became Estranged from Nature by Melanie Challenger, is a long and often lyrical meditation on how people lose contact with their natural environment and the effect of this on the way in which we humans exploit and often abuse the natural world.  You can read a recent review of the book, by Kathleen Jamie in the Guardian, here but in essence it begins with the author, a poet, working in an abandoned tin miner’s hut in Cornwall, lamenting how little she knows about the wild flowers that surround her and contemplating extinction and the way in which advancing technology and human exploitation of natural resources have led to the loss of livelihoods, cultures and species. Over the following 133 pages she travels to an Antarctic whaling station in South Georgia, to the Falklands, Whitby and Baffin Island and visits the Inuit on the Arctic tundra, witnessing for herself evidence of humans’ impact on animals, their environment and each others’ cultures, with – along the way - numerous digressions into history, culture, literature, politics and economics, explaining how all this came about.   In the final chapter having - quite literally - travelled to the ends of the Earth the author, drifting downstream in her canal boat towards Wicken fen in Cambridgeshire, finds at least partial personal salvation in learning to identify the plants and animals around her - and so reconnecting with the natural world. She has discovered a fundamental truth – that nothing engenders respect for nature, and alertness to forces that threaten it, more powerfully than being on first-name terms with the wild plants and animals with which we share our local patch of the planet on an everyday basis. When they are part of the fabric of a person’s life, then it’s well-nigh impossible not to care about them and be aware of changes.

Having read and learned from many hundreds of fellow nature bloggers’ posts over the last two and a half years, it seems to me that this is a conclusion that many have reached and, perhaps even more importantly, have conveyed to blog posters around the planet, sharing their personal explorations that often venture only a few miles from home.

The first picture I posted on my blog was of a spider’s web and here, 450 posts later, is another such, in celebration of the modern technology’s web that connects people who share and care about nature in their own backyard. 






















Wonderful resource the web, isn’t it?

On Extinction: How we Became Estranged from Nature by Melanie Challenger is published by Granta. ISBN 978-1-84708-187-2. www.grantabooks.com



12 comments:

  1. Wonderful resource the web, isn’t it?

    Isn't it just, as is your thought provoking blog Phil, thanks for the review a must read methinks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wicken Fen has that effect on folk. It gives one the time and space to notice wildlife and to appreciate the natural world. It engenders a sense of being a part of Nature, not apart from it. Thanks for highlighting the book and a greater truth.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for this - sounds a worthwhile read. The idea reminds me of a book I read called Mutant Message Down Under.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was fortunate that my Mother taught me the names of all the flowers (including their local or informal names) from my very earliest days. I'm sure that was a key factor ion engendering my love of nature. I hope that is why my two daughters also love nature. Helen has become a nautral history blogger too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It seems to be a book worth reading. Old timers and many villagers here know the local names of the wild flowers and plants, but I find that knowledge is slowly getting lost, and the wild plants are dwindling.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A brilliant post on what sounds an amazing book. Having just moved into a rather 'concrete' environment, I realised afresh last w/e when I got 'out and about' just how liberating and exhilarating the natural world can be ... from the smallest Scarlet Pimpernel on the sand to the huge sweep of Starlings at 'roost' time, against an amber sky.

    I began the season re-learning the names of wild flowers I encountered ... but the move overtook us. You may, however, be interested to see how far I got here. It is definitely something I shall try again.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks Stewart, the web certainly widens your horizons, even when you stay close to home!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Graeme, I've yet to visit Wicken Fen - a serious gap in my education...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Susan, It's a bit of a bewildering book at times, full of diversions, but an interesting read..

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Scriptor Senex, I had a grandmother who left school at 14 with just a certificate for good handwriting, but was employed in a nursery to write Latin names of plants on labels, so learned them all and passed the knowledge on to me .....

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi lotusleaf, it does seem that fewer and fewer people grow up knowing the names of plants that they encounter every day..

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Caroline, lovely photo of fox-and-cubs on your blog. I have it growing in my garden. It's sometimes called Grim the Collier (on account of its sooty-black whiskery hairs on the calyx) in these parts...

    ReplyDelete