I have just finished the extraordinary Wilding by Isabella Tree. Over the past decade I have read countless books about conservation and environmentalism, the standouts being; Carson's Silent Spring, Monbiot's Feral, Leopold's Sand County Almanac, Foster's The Ecological Revolution, Lynas's The God Species, McCarthy's The Moth Snow Storm, Roberts's Ocean of Life, and Goulson's A Buzz in the Meadow. Wilding assimilates most, if not all, of the themes these influential books cover and she grounds the work in the day-to-day rewilding project at Knepp Estate. People like Patricia Staunton have been managing land like this for decades, giving nature its head and heart, but no-one in England has done it on the scale of Knepp. The results at Knepp are astonishing.
One of things that struck me, while reading this fabulous book, was how often Isabella and her husband Charlie came up against stuck (orthodox) thinking from 'people of the land'. An example of this was how people riled against the bountiful spring & summer crop of Ragwort at Knepp. There is scant actual evidence that Ragwort kills livestock - they have cohabited with this plant for many many years and the volume required to induce death is substantial. Only in extremis, do deaths occur. Tree debunks the sloppy thinking & poor 'science' that gives rise to the all out assault on this native species. Notably, she points out that Ragwort supports up to 177 invertebrates! Each year at UWNR there is a decent crop of Ragwort and this year the plants are playing host to countless Cinnabar Moth caterpillars - they relentlessly stripping the plants. While common, this moth is beautiful and this species should be seen as the natural control of this valuable native plant. Stuck thinking though, wins the day - for now.