The tragedy of our destruction of biodiversity has been like a slow-motion car-crash that I have been observing throughout my life.
The destruction is ongoing, continuous and horrendous.
I have witnessed it in the UK and as I’ve travelled the world I have seen the evidence everywhere I have one.
In The UK.
The plants and animals I used to see regularly are disappearing fast. As a boy, I used to play in meadows full of wildflowers. I used to collect caterpillars, newts, frogs, toads, slowworms and grass snakes. They were common. Hedgehogs were everywhere. The fields were full of the buzz of insects. Big flocks of swifts and swallows swooped and fed. Streams were full of sticklebacks, dragonfly and caddis.
Those fields are sprayed with pesticide and herbicide. The streams are polluted or culverted. The hedgerows have been grubbed up, trees chopped down and ponds filled.
Where can the wildlife live?
The rainforests – the lungs of the earth – are disappearing at an alarming rate. Flying over the Amazon the sight of the vast areas of cleared forest is alarming. But the same thing is happening in Borneo, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Africa. What was once impenetrable jungle (only fifty years ago) has roads running through it. The loggers and hunters have moved in. The farmers follow. The forest, along with the creatures it supports, is burnt.
I was quite shocked by a statistic that came out of the David Attenborough programme last night concerning the biomass of organisms.
That is what we have done in the last hundred years.
Our seas are being denuded of fish by huge supertrawlers. Our rivers are likewise overfished. Travelling down the Mekong I was amazed to see that through the whole length there were fishing enterprises taking even the smallest fish to batter into fish paste. What hope is there?
In Vietnam, everything that moves is killed. Even the paddy fields have traps to catch and eat insects. The jungles were silent.
I am appalled by the cruel, inhumane way we treat animals. They are caged in tiny cages, driven mad and killed in the most horrendous ways – being boiled alive, skinned alive or cut open to extract blood or gall bladders. Such insensitivity.
What is wrong with people?
This is not sustainable.
The delicate balance of nature not only supports this wondrous array of life but provides our climate, our food, our oxygen and atmosphere that keeps us alive.
Already we are seeing the huge fires due to global warming, the floods, droughts, heatwaves and changes in air and sea currents.
Nature can bounce back but we have to help it. We have to stop the destruction, reduce our population, stop the waste, put back the forests, the ponds, streams and hedgerows and start to act responsibly (and far less cruelly).
I think we are on the brink.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 May 2016
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.