I’ve just come back from Holland. My daughter is moving into a new house. I was talking to the neighbours. They had lived there for ten years. They told me that their house use to be the last one in the row; that across the road was woodland and that beyond that was nothing but fields. I looked down the road at the long row of houses, across at the tram line and over to the new town.
In my village there are new houses springing up on waste land, the odd tree being chopped down, ditches culvetted, ponds filled in. Hedges disappear, gardens are concreted.
Across from my school there was a spring which was designated as a site of scientific interest. I used to take my classes across in the summer to see the water voles, frogs, newts and tadpoles. We even found grass-snakes and slow worms. It is now a new housing estate.
All over the country there are new roads, houses and buildings. There are hedgerows, streams, ponds and trees being eradicated.
It is slow, steady and relentless. Nature is fought back, habitat destroyed. A slow creep.
It is the same story all over the world.
It is not just about the graphic deforestation. The steady creep is wiping out wild animals even more effectively.
This is a passionate and always readable book conceived in love, gestated over a lifetime of travel and naturalism, born in a burst of anger and hope. There are many vivid accounts of places visited, focusing on their flora and fauna, with plenty to celebrate and much to fear. Pointers for the future are given and I’d like to have had even more detail of these. But this is a book to inspire social change. The message is that we all need to work on the solutions. This is a valuable and timely book which throws down the gauntlet in our desperate search for survival and sustainability.