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This is a gem of a book. Taking as his starting point a certain late-capitalist ennui (though he doesn’t call it that), Monbiot builds a case for ‘rewilding’ parts of upland Britain. Not just as an environmentalist imperative, but in order to return to us a kind of elemental excitement that comes from encounters with a fully robust natural world.
The totem of the rewilding movement is the wolf, which has already started returning of its own accord to parts of France. The absence of this kind of predator from Britain, Monbiot argues, knocks upland ecosystems out. The Scottish Highlands are overrun with deer to an extent that pleases game-hunting estates but means tree saplings are chewed up before they get a chance to establish themselves. The uplands of mid-Wales, meanwhile, are promoted as a natural landscape despite being one of the least biodiverse areas of the country as a result of ‘sheepwrecking’.
Monbiot draws on historical evidence, and the experience of accidental rewilding as a result of depopulation in places such as Slovenia, to argue that given a bit of latitude and the return of a few ‘keystone’ species (not just predators but others, such as beavers), ecosystems can find a new balance that allows for the resurgence of a huge diversity of animals and plants. And if that’s true on land, then it is doubly so for the seas.
Rewilding is not without its progressive critics. Writing in The Land magazine, the farmer and writer Simon Fairlie has argued that it does not always sit well with an ecologically sustainable food system and food sovereignty for the UK, which would require the extensive (as opposed to intensive) use of marginal land for food production and related processes. However, he is not, in the end, very opposed to Monbiot’s cautious, thought-through and consensual proposals.
The book draws on an entertaining mix of ecological science, history, reportage and personal anecdote to convey a vision that is the very opposite of the financial ‘valuation’ of nature currently in vogue in some quarters. Rich in both passion and sharply argued insight, it is a rewarding read.
The collapse of Carillion is only one small part of a larger story of decades of economic mismanagement
Laura McDonald writes that universities should not just be finishing schools for the wealthy or disciplinary institutions churning out docile workers.
A floundering alliance of Blairites is trying to reinvent itself for a Corbynite age. By Tom Costello.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes