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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. The irony is that 94% of Britain is not built upon at all. And 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.
Britain is blessed with all the space it needs for an epic wildlife recovery. The deer estates of the Scottish Highlands are twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. Snowdonia is larger than the Maasai Mara. The problem in Britain is not a lack of space. It is that our precious space is uniquely wasted – not only for wildlife, but for people's jobs and rural futures too.
Rebirding maps out how we might finally turn things around: rewilding our national parks, restoring natural ecosystems and allowing our wildlife a far richer future. In doing so, an entirely new sector of rural jobs would be created; finally bringing Britain's dying rural landscapes and failing economies, back to life.
1 - Taming Britain
2 - The Anthropocene
3 - The First Imperative
4 - The Lost Stewards
5 - A Question of Scale
6 - Memory
7 - A Wild Economy
8 - The Wild Highlands
9 - New Forests
10 - The Golden Hills of Wales
11 - A Grouse Moor Wild
12 - Pelican Possibility
13 - Our Birds
14 - Conservation Begins
Benedict Macdonald is a conservation writer, field director in wildlife television, and a keen naturalist; passionate about restoring Britain's wildlife, pelicans included, in his lifetime.
During his extensive global travel experience, Benedict has found inspiring examples of why desecrating our country’s ecosystems is both entirely avoidable and against the national interest. This book is his attempt to ensure that this generation, for the first time in thousands of years, leaves Britain’s wildlife better off, not worse, than the generation before – for wildlife and people alike.
Benedict is a long-time writer for Birdwatching magazine, as well as a contributor to the RSPB Nature’s Home and BBC Wildlife. He has been fortunate to work on TV series for the BBC, Apple and Netflix – most notably the grasslands and jungles programmes of Sir David Attenborough’s conservation series Our Planet: broadcast worldwide on Netflix in April 2019.
"What I really love about this book is that it doesn't just go over the same tired and familiar issues. Instead, it offers a revolutionary new approach. This not only could work, but needs to succeed, if we are to stop fiddling at the margins and do something that actually restores Britain's birds and wildlife to their rightful place at the centre of our nation, culture and society. Rebirding also offers a compelling vision: of a richer and healthier Britain, with flocks of pelicans drifting over our wetlands, wild cats and capercaillies returning to our increasingly wooded hunting estates, and wildlife safaris to watch lynx and golden eagles in Snowdonia – all within a generation. Not least, Rebirding is beautifully written, based on deep, personal experience and a genuine love of the subject. It also benefits from the heady enthusiasm of youth. You may not have come across Ben Macdonald before now; but believe me, you will hear a lot more from him in the future."
– Stephen Moss
"Having read a number of the recent books about rewilding, I was tempted to think 'Oh blimey, not another one!'. I am now tempted to say 'they left the best till last [...] ' Ben covers history, science, traditions, conservation and reintroduction, all with those most vital elements – knowledge and enthusiasm."
– Bill Oddie
"A wonderful book, visitionary, illuminating, and fascinating"
– George Monbiot