Monday 7 October 2013

In The New Yorker I read pieces about the environment before any others; Hortus, the literate garden quarterly, makes expansive reading outdoors or in the bath. Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding by George Monbiot, is the first book about the environment I’ve read in many years; the first articulate rant/rhapsody.

For the first chapter or two I was uneasy; it wasn’t Thoreau, Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey; maybe Roger Deakin with urgency and politics. He establishes his credentials, takes us to some of his key places, and does not assume too much about his reader, in the manner of a journalist.

Somewhere around chapter six, Greening the desert, enchantment begins. I spent my adolescence imagining the end of the world; I was postwar, post-apocalyptic, post-sanity, held together by discrete and solitary visions in small town wasteland: I looked for enchantment in the raw peace of Beckett, the absurdity of Kafka, so far out it was beautiful.

And now, in my patch in Ireland, I look after a garden, plant trees, allow a field to revert to what suits it; which is local comfort and fine defiance beside the depradations of agriculture under capitalism, but it doesn’t connect; it’s an ecological ivory tower.

Greening the desert, bringing back wolves or beavers, trees growing, children playing in woods, species proliferating, trophic cascades cascading, chapter by exhilarating chapter, Feral joins the dots and the wolf leaps.

These are large visions. Large and pullulating. How rare to bump into optimism. How much imagination do we need? More, perhaps, and more energy, than we need for imagining other people’s lives when we read literature, or even the paper. This is our planet coming into view. This is where we could live.