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New Review: Why Nature Conservation isn't Working: Understanding Wildlife in the Modern World

Posted by David Penney on

We are pleased to announce a new review of our recent title: Why Nature Conservation Isn't Working: Understanding Wildlife in the Modern World by Dr Adrian Spalding has just been published in the latest volume of Atropos (2021: 69, 70-71).

Snippets: "British species are the central focus, their recorded history and their relationship with human beings.  Extensive and numerous examples are succinctly outlined, demonstrating the commonest, and some of the rarer, origins of species that currently inhabit the UK, and sometimes places further afield. There is frequent reference to both naturally arising means of establishment and various people-assisted pathways. … The author frequently draws on his own experiences and these elements are particularly engaging and insightful. We hear otherwise unbroadcast observations from his own work, including on the dynamic existence of the tiny Sandhill Rustic colonies; the tentative care of those reintroducing the Large blue; both mistakes, and potentially hope arising from the construction of high speed 1 (the Eurostar route through Kent); the ecological results of rat removal on the Isles of Scilly; and discoveries made while surveying Cornish mining sites.
Those familiar with the topic of human interaction with other species will have encountered many of the issues addressed here, but they will also find much new material on which to chew. For me the sections about arrival of the Golden Jackal Canis aureus in Europe and its repercussions for the human inhabitants, and the problems of Swedish Whitebeam Sorbus intermedia being mistakenly planted in place of the very similar native Common Whitebeam S. aria and then interbreeding with that species and Rowan S. aucuparia, were satisfyingly thought provoking.

The author, Adrian Spalding, is likely to be known to readers as a moth expert, Sandhill Rustic Luperina nickerlii conservation guru and finder of Spalding’s Dart Agrotis herzogi. This is a free-range book that traverses all wildlife but there is a preponderance of coverage in here that will excite the moth or insect enthusiast."

Click the cover to go to the product page for more info or to order a copy

Synopsis: Species are central to nature conservation, but we see wildlife as adjuncts to people without connection with their authentic habitats. With this limited view, we cannot save wildlife from extinction. Concentration on iconic species achieves brilliant publicity but looks after the icing whilst the cake crumbles beneath.

What people are saying
Adrian Spalding, like most of his professional colleagues, is a very patient man. He observes, records and interprets wildlife – he is dedicated to understanding so that he can use his knowledge to protect and sustain the ecology and diversity upon which we all rely. He is a practical scientist who spends much time in the field, either advising clients with integrity, or studying, writing and talking about the life he uses all his senses and intelligence to support.
    His new book, ‘Why Nature Conservation isn’t Working’, poses a challenge to public policy and investment, to now-fundamental presumptions of what is virtuous. His sub-title is ‘Understanding wildlife in the modern world’. So, in telling a story of adaptation, of traditional demarcations breaking down, of introductions via party gimmicks, extinctions and survivals, he argues for a complete rethink of how we set about achieving what everybody wants. He speaks from considered experience but doesn’t hold back from expressing exasperation at the apparent unwillingness of institutions, individuals, charities and quangos to objectively review achievements and contemplate change.
In an early anecdote he writes:
    ‘Lucia Chmurova from Butterfly Conservation told me at the 2019 National Moth Conference that in her native Slovenia there was almost no one working on wildlife but she could watch wolves and bears just outside her house, whereas in the UK there were thousands of people working for wildlife but almost no wildlife!’
    Adrian Spalding uses a broad spectrum of references, from Jean Paul Sartre to a ’friend living on The Lizard’ and his ability to marshal wisdom, research, literature, opinion and experience into a coherent narrative with a very strong challenge is excellent – the book never ceases to surprise and to inform. Unlike many scientific works the reader also gets to know, and to like, the author.
    Having invested an entire (not yet over!) professional career in conservation, the author might be forgiven a certain degree of grumpiness – a forgiveness made easier by his twin attributes of being able to tell a good tale, and, for all the weight of challenging his own long-held professional ethos, retaining his ideals and principles. He is a very engaging author and his case is one which should be brought into the social domain.
     Of course, like many others, he is calling for a fundamental shift in values, and in our relationship with wildlife – we are not proprietors or guardians. We have a vested interest as animals in ensuring that our habitat is well populated with all those things, from single cells to beavers, choughs and wolves to bees, moths and the miniscule and all that invisible subterranean and submarine life which make things work beautifully, practicably and sustainably.
    If we simply rely on the investment of public money in initiatives, schemes and projects then we will be assuaging ourselves of blame for not doing the difficult thing ourselves – which is to change ourselves. After all, why should everything else adapt to us – is it not a good thing to experience the odd shiver when a bear is rubbing its fleas against the log walls of our cabin?
Bert Biscoe, ex Mayor of Truro, Cornwall Councillor, poet.

This thought-provoking new book by entomologist Adrian Spalding is an enjoyable and fascinating read. It covers many subjects of great interest to UK insect recorders, including species introductions, rewilding, migration, butterflies and roads, monitoring, use by wildlife of post-industrial landscapes, to name but a few. The index entries demonstrate this is no dry and dusty textbook, which include Mike Tyson, Theresa May, Christiano Ronaldo, Only Fools and Horses, Moby Dick, Private Eye, David Attenborough and the Ugly Animal Preservation Society (and let's not forget the Peppered Moth). A unique collection for a unique book. We recommend it.
Mark Tunmore, Atropos website

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book, particularly the author’s journey through the natural world and his personal experiences in footnotes and reminiscences. The book considers the unstable state of species over the planet. You are not asked to agree with his points of view on issues, which often involve compromise, but you are challenged to think about issues in a phase space between art and science, beauty and cruelty, good and evil, dominated by humans. You will find you are drawn to read it in a single sitting."
Professor R.L.H. Dennis BA, PhD, DSc, FLS, FRGS, FRSB, FRES

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