Rebirding | Benedict Macdonald
Did you know that 94% of Britain isn’t built upon? That Snowdonia is larger and emptier than the Maasai Mara National Reserve? That Scotland’s deer estates, or the UK’s burned heather lands farmed for grouse, both cover areas twice the size of Yellowstone National Park? That livestock farms occupy 88% of Wales but contribute 0.7% to its economy – and provide jobs for less than 2% of its people?
Britain is blessed with space. Huge areas of this space produce little in the way of viable food supplies. They sustain few livelihoods, and no young people’s futures. We waste space in a way no other nation would allow. The solution is simple: the restoration of our native landscapes, our wildlife – and most of all, our rural jobs. Nature makes money, creates genuine local income, and affords the prospect of a life without subsidy for our dying rural communities.
Rebirding takes the long view of Britain’s wildlife decline, from the early taming of our landscape and its long-lost elephants and rhinos, to fenland drainage, the removal of cornerstone species such as wild cattle, horses, beavers and boar – and forward in time to the intensification of our modern landscapes and the collapse of invertebrate populations.
It looks at key reasons why species are vanishing, as our landscapes become ever more tamed and less diverse, with wildlife trapped in tiny pockets of habitat. It explores how Britain has, uniquely, relied on modifying farmland, rather than restoring ecosystems, in a failing attempt to halt wildlife decline. With more nature-loving voices than any European country, we should in fact have the best, not the most impoverished, wildlife on our continent. Especially when the rural economics of our game estates, and upland farms, are among the worst in Europe.
Rebirding was written as the first book with actual solutions for how beautiful and profitable the UK’s countryside could one day look – as well as why the impending extinction of our cuckoos, turtle doves and honey-bees is entirely avoidable. Britain has all the space it needs for an epic wildlife recovery. So what’s stopping it from happening in our country – and how can we turn things around?