Feral | George Monbiot

Summary of: Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life
By: George Monbiot


Get ready to dive into the fascinating world of rewilding as we explore the book ‘Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life’ by George Monbiot. In this summary, we will delve into the author’s experiences in Brazil and Kenya, his interactions with indigenous tribes, and the lessons he derived from their lifestyles. We will also discuss the concept of rewilding, a revolutionary approach to preserving nature and wildlife. By designating specific areas for nature to thrive undisturbed, we can restore ecological balance and diminish our environmental boredom. All this and more awaits you in the forthcoming summary.

Unearthing Amazon’s Dark Secrets

In 1989, Monbiot journeyed to Brazil’s gold mines, witnessing the devastating impact on the Amazon rainforest and local indigenous tribes. The destruction of forests for easy access to gold-rich sediments had far-reaching consequences, including pervasive violence affecting both miners and the Yanomami tribe. With their survival at risk, the Yanomami experienced severe losses due to disease, violence, and decimation of villages. Monbiot found a Yanomami community enduring this crisis, with an 18-year-old boy taking on the chief’s role amid widespread sickness and traditional rituals. Unfortunately, despite international calls for protection, the Yanomami’s population suffered a 20 percent drop during the gold rush.

Embracing Indigenous Wisdom

The author’s encounters with indigenous cultures, particularly during his time in Kenya with his Maasai friend Toronkei, highlight the beauty of spontaneity and make him appreciate the rich, vibrant way these people live their lives – a way often overlooked in Western society. Such celebrations of life made the author question his own lifestyle in the United Kingdom and realize that there is much to learn from indigenous traditions.

George Monbiot’s meetings with indigenous peoples around the world have been eye-opening, providing him with deep insights into different ways of life. During a trip to Kenya in 1992, he formed a friendship with a Maasai warrior named Toronkei. Monbiot was struck by the uniqueness of Maasai life, a stark contrast to his own Western upbringing.

A key element that fascinated Monbiot was the spontaneity that the Maasai practiced in their decision-making. For instance, Toronkei would abruptly decide to run 35 miles to another village just to visit a friend. This spontaneity extended beyond friendly visits – when Toronkei met a woman during one of his runs, the two of them impulsively decided to elope, refusing to turn back even when confronted by the woman’s brothers.

Monbiot felt a pang of jealousy as he heard Toronkei’s tale of love and elopement. He realized that the strength and spontaneity of their connection was something his own Western life seemed to lack.

His feelings of envy were far from unique. History shows that many colonists preferred indigenous cultures over their own. Even Benjamin Franklin observed that Europeans who were taken captive by native Americans often grew attached to their captors’ way of life. It wasn’t uncommon for white Americans to willingly “defect” to indigenous societies.

These experiences and revelations led Monbiot to reassess the way he lived his life in the United Kingdom. Embracing the wisdom of indigenous cultures and their spontaneous connection with life held lessons that went beyond the superficial constraints of his own society, showing the importance of learning from the most diverse sources possible.

Embracing True Rewilding

After living a conventional life in Wales, the author discovers the concept of rewilding, which focuses on setting aside natural areas for nature to run its course freely, rather than creating artificially managed landscapes. Through real rewilding, humans can rediscover their connection to nature and alleviate environmental boredom.

The author, having experienced exciting adventures in Brazil, returned to settle down in Wales, immersing himself in family life and writing about the environment. However, he soon realized there was something absent in his life.

Aware that indigenous societies were far from perfect, with short life expectancies and lacking basic technology, the author sought a deeper connection to nature, rather than reverting to primitive lifestyles. While humans have had significant impacts on nature even in early societies, oversimplified ideals of harmonious living should not be the focus.

The author turned to rewilding as a solution for this lacking connection. Though the term was added to the dictionary in 2011, its definition continues to evolve. For the author, rewilding centers around designating specific natural areas where nature can progress uninfluenced by human intervention.

Contrasting with common approaches to natural protection, rewilding opposes artificially created landscapes such as managed heaths and moorlands that resemble well-kept gardens more than genuine wilderness. Merely reintroducing extinct species, like wolves, bears, cranes, or even elephants, into these controlled environments isn’t true rewilding.

Genuine rewilding requires human restraint, leaving these spaces undisturbed so that nature can thrive autonomously. By embracing this hands-off approach, humans can replace their feelings of ecological monotony with delight and appreciation, reviving their connection to the wonders of the natural world.

Rewilding: Embracing Nature’s Balance

Rewilding is an environmental concept that doesn’t imply abandoning urban lifestyles or returning to hunter-gatherer ways. Instead, it focuses on reintroducing wild animals and nature where agricultural lands yield low results. Through rewilding, humans can develop a better connection with nature and engage in new, enriching experiences.

If the idea of rewilding makes you fear returning to primitive living conditions, rest assured that it doesn’t require abandoning the comforts of modern life. Rather than advocating for a return to hunter-gatherer ways, rewilding embraces humanity’s coexistence with wild nature to support a holistic, sustainable environment.

The truth is, our planet could not tolerate a complete return to hunter-gatherer systems due to the expansive global population. For instance, a study by Christopher Smith in 1992 revealed that during the Mesolithic period, the British Isles could only sustain a population of about 5,000 due to limited food supplies. In comparison, modern farming practices and technology have enabled us to feed millions of people, which cannot be overlooked.

Instead, rewilding seeks to revitalize the relationship between humans, wildlife, and their environments. This approach involves designating specific areas, such as low-yield farming lands or mountainous regions, as rewilding initiatives. Places that rely heavily on agricultural subsidies, for instance, could make a significant impact by returning the land to its wild origins.

Rewilding is not exclusionary; in fact, it encourages human interaction with natural habitats and the reintroduction of species like wolves, wildcats, beavers, and wild boar. Our ancestors once coexisted with these wildlife neighbors, and by reconnecting with this lost heritage, we can stimulate the growth of new physical and mental faculties. Ultimately, rewilding aims to create diverse, unpredictable environments that enrich the human experience while nurturing a sustainable balance between civilization and nature.

The Vanishing Marine Life

There’s a unique sense of splendor being aboard a fishing boat in the open sea, surrounded by nature’s untamed beauty. However, the devastating effects of overfishing can no longer be ignored as fish populations decrease and the size of mackerel shoals diminish. Despite what some environmental organizations say, this decline speaks volumes about our decreasing ecological standards. Although the wild experiences and adventures of fishing trips still offer excitement, it’s essential that we pay attention to the deteriorating marine life and work towards sustainable practices.

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