Feral (2013) Book Summary and Insights

9 minutes read

Book Title: Feral

Subtitle: Searching For Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding

Publication Date: 2013

Author Name: George Monbiot

Book Summary

Feral explains to us what we already know. The earth is dying. As man’s population increases, we destroy the few forests we have to accommodate the teeming population. We lose over 200 to 2000 species to extinction each year because of man’s activity. To compound this loss are the activities of corporations and industries. In the quest for profit, we have destroyed precious ecosystems for good pushing ourselves towards extinction. The carbon footprint is higher than it ever was. But is there a solution?

George Monbiot in his book Feral helps us to understand the benefits of allowing nature to take control. He believes man has lost his way and needs to revert to the indigenous way of life where nature reigned supreme. We push nature to the very brink but when we give nature a chance to take its course, there are immense advantages which will help mankind on his journey towards survival.

Read the following insights to understand the importance of saving the environment, and the ways we can put nature back in charge.

Who Is This Book For?

 This book is for everyone because the benefits of rewilding and the consequences of destroying the environment affects us all.

About The Author

George Monbiot studied zoology at Oxford, and has spent his career as a journalist and environmentalist, working with others to defend the natural world he loves. His celebrated Guardian columns are syndicated all over the world. He is the author of the best-selling books Captive State, The Age of Consent, Bring on the Apocalypse, and Heat, as well as the investigative travel books Poisoned Arrows, Amazon Watershed, and No Man’s Land. His latest book, Feral, was shortlisted for the Great Outdoors Book of the Year award. Among the many prizes he has won is the UN Global 500 award for outstanding environmental achievement, presented to him by Nelson Mandela.

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Book Insights

The Quest for Natural Resources In Brazil Destroys Natural Forestry And Depletes Indigenous Populations

In a little over 40 years, it is incredible to believe approximately 750,000 sq. km of pristine rainforest have been destroyed. This is not only loss from logging and population expansion but also from illegal mining. The increase in the cost of gold in the global market has directly impacted on the increase in illegal mining inside the Amazon. This has had a direct impact on the indigenous population dwindling their numbers by over 25% in the last few years alone. There are approximately 2,300 illegal mining operations in more than ten countries spanning the Amazon include Brazil, Columbia and Ecuador. The method of extracting gold through the use of mercury has poisoned waterways and the soil which has a direct consequence for the indigenous population who call the Amazon home. The fishermen fish in poisoned waters while the farmers plant on poisoned lands. Sickness is rife in these hinterlands. This is especially bad for the Yanomami who live in the territory between Venezuela and Brazil. The author was able to see first-hand the direct consequence illegal mining has with the Yanomami dying from diseases brought by miners including their mining techniques which increase mosquito breeding with many dying from malaria. Despite calls for international intervention, more than a fifth of the population of this indigenous tribe are dead because of gold mining alone.

The Indigenous Lifestyle Is Another Way To Live For Those Who Grew Up In The West

There is a reason the West love the Safari. American presidents of times past alongside other dignitaries have come to the African Safari to hunt big game. The English Royal Family are not left out with Prince William and Harry disclosing their love for Africa on many occasions. There is the direct closeness with nature we hardly see in the west. Man is in constant contact with the wild. The author’s brief stay in Kenya and his interaction with the Masai makes him understand the joy of living a primal existence. It gave him a better understanding why Europeans captured by the Native American tribes often refuse to escape after settling down to the indigenous way of life.

Rewilding Is The Way To Bring Man In Communion With Nature

Rewilding is the act of setting aside land which has little or no value to man and allowing nature run wild in those areas without human intervention. In terms of principle, it is the opposite of what a protected area is because it directly involves mankind in the management of such areas. These protected nature reserve are usually artificial landscapes designed for such a purpose. The author does not push for this idea but prefers to look forward to the day man allows nature to run unrestrained in our environment.

Rewilding Does Not Mean Giving Up On Modernity

Unlike other environmentalists, the author does not see rewilding as an avenue for mankind to go back to the days of hunting and gathering. With the present population, that will mean the extinction of mankind as we know it because that model will not be sustainable to grow food for all of us. Rather, the author wants rewilding to take place in areas with little or no farming value and allowing nature to bring back the wilderness. He sees the need for such areas to be the homes of the wild animals of the past and the chance to allow them repopulate freely without human supervision. But rewilding does not mean the total exclusion of man either as these will become places where mankind can sharpen his physical and mental capacities – those skills which made him able to climb from the bottom of the food chain to the apex predator he is today.

The Sea Is Another Way To Get In Touch With The Wild

The world’s oceans are shrinking by the minute and as of today, we can only call 13% of the entire oceans true wilderness areas. Human activity has spread at almost every part of the ocean and this has resulted in the sped up heating of the ocean, ocean pollution through oil spills, and overfishing. Overfishing alone leads to the endangering of the ocean species which were once teeming with life but are now almost extinct. The domestication of the seas because of human activity has serious consequences for our future survival. But the untamed ocean remains a spectacle to behold with its unpredictability almost costing the author his life when he comes in contact with a seemingly harmless but deadly fish. He could have put his life in great danger if not for the primal sense of survival that is encoded in our genes. Through this experience, he encourages us to get in touch with our wild side by embracing the sea and its unpredictable adventures.

Unfounded Sightings Means We Crave To Be In Touch With Nature

There are always occasional claims of humans spotting wild animals in areas that are not their habitat. Like the black feline cat reported in several places in the UK. But Black Panthers only exist in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, some parts of Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It is so unlikely to find a panther in the metropolitan streets of the UK. There are yet to be evidence to confirm these sightings but the author believes these are the inner cravings of modern mankind to be back in a time where such wild animals co-existed in the same environment with man.

To Rewild Nature We Need The Introduction Of The Apex Predators

Whether or not we like it, big game or apex predators bring order to the food chain creating balance in the ecosystem.

This is the reason apex predators are key to rewilding nature. The hunting down of apex predators like the lions in the jungles of South Africa, and the jaguar in the rainforests of Brazil has led to radical changes in the ecosystem. The reintroduction of apex predators could give us an insight into what the natural landscape used to be like in times past. For example, the near extinction of wolves in the Yellowstone National Park upset the food chain and altered the landscape in an environment where the elk roamed unrestrained. This reduced the vegetation and drastically set off a chain reaction where the flora and some of the indigenous fauna dwindled to the point of extinction. But when wolves made a comeback in Yellowstone, it restored the ecosystem balance. The wolves could reduce their numbers and prevented the elk from depleting the vegetation. This allowed for other animals like beavers, mice and birds to thrive. Not only that, the vegetation returned across the riverbanks which prevented erosion. The changes were so radical; it altered the flow of the rivers all because of introducing wolves. From this little example, we can see that to explore the full possibilities of nature, big game is important because they creating a balance by preventing a population from going out of control, destroying the ecosystem and the food chain.

There is an argument not to bring back missing species until we successfully protect the wildlife in existence. There is nothing further than the truth. The survival of the present wildlife is down to introducing some wildlife known as the “keystone species” which are animals who have a far-reaching impact on the environment than their numbers can tell. For example, there are studies which show the dwindling grassland may cause the extinction of the deer. But the deer compete amongst themselves for scarce vegetation because of unchecked breeding. If we introduce an apex predator like the lynx to these areas, they would cull the deer population. This will ease the burden on the vegetation and allow the deer have more food which will guarantee the survival of their species.

To Successfully Rewild Nature We Need To Do Away With Conservation

Conservation is nothing but artificial control. It is about humans having a say in which specie of flora and fauna deserve to exist and the others that deserve to be extinct. To successfully rewild nature, we need to take our human hands out of the process and let nature do its thing. This is because there is no good or bad animal in existence. Conservationists may end up having good intentions but they only create bad ecosystems where plants and animals exist in a state of artificial imbalance. The Author uses the scenic hills of England to drive home his point. England has a lot of rolling hills and shrubs (which are beautiful to look at and take pictures) but nothing we can call a forest in the league of the Amazon. There is not a lot of natural activity compared to what goes on in the tropical wilderness of Brazil. While the grassland may be perfect for sheep, it is not suitable for anything else. The author points out that sheep, which is common in England, is an aberration because the animal is not indigenous to the country. It came all the way from faraway Mesopotamia but today calls the UK home. The same way man brought back wolves to Yellowstone, he urges governments to reintroduce wild apex predators back into the UK and allow nature to find its balance.

Key Quotes

“But rewilding, unlike conservation, has no fixed objective: it is driven not by human management but by natural processes. There is no point at which it can be said to arrive. Rewilding of the kind that interests me does not seek to control the natural world, to re-create a particular ecosystem or landscape, but – having brought back some of the missing species – to allow it to find its own way.” — George Monbiot, Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding

“Rewilding is not about abandoning civilization but about enhancing it. It is to ‘love not man the less’, but Nature more. — George Monbiot, Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding

Conclusion

To save our planet, we have to go back to the days of old. Rewilding nature has its benefits; not just to save and prevent the imminent collapse of the wildlife and our environment but to safeguard our future as a species.

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Content created​by: Chima Emenike

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Editorial Member at LarnEdu is a team of content writers led by Giovanni Olakunori.

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