Conservation is a gripping and important topic, but it can be very inaccessible and confusing to those of us who aren’t already experts or scientists, or both.
I have a few friends who work in botany, conservation and birdwatching, and they all say the same sort of thing: most of the people in these industries struggle to make their work relatable.
Conservation really takes the brunt of this issue: after all, it’s something that everyone needs to know about. However, because most scientific papers and technical books are too difficult to understand, most ordinary people who aren’t scientists or conservation specialists simply don’t read them or even acknowledge their existence.
Thankfully, many amazing writers have written about this topic and tried to make it understandable for those of us who don’t know the Latin names of every plant on the planet.
If you’re trying to learn about conservation and understand how we can help the environment, then here are 5 books about the topic that I love. All of the books are non-fiction, because while novels are a handy way to explain complex topics, it’s also possible to make important issues like conservation and environmentalism accessible without fictionalising them.
5. American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains: Naturalist and outdoor lover Dan Flores shares his love of America’s Great Plains with readers in this fascinating book. It explores the history of these desert regions that were once home to a diverse range of species, ranging from grey wolves and bears through to majestic wild horses and antelope. Flores takes each of these animals and gives an amazing portrayal of its natural life in this wild place and how, over the years, the animals have interacted with ranchers, industrials and other aspects of human life in modern America. Through this discussion he explores the ways in which humans have destroyed native habitats and had a significant negative impact on the lives of many of these incredible animals, and what we can do to help improve diversity and conserve native species that are struggling to survive on the Great Plains.
4. Erosion: Essays of Undoing: From respected author, conservationist and activist Terry Tempest Williams, comes Erosion: Essays Of Undoing. This book of essays on a range of topics offers a unique insight into how humanity has irrevocably damaged nature and the various types of erosion that people can perpetrate. Whether it’s damaging sacred Native American lands to undermining American laws that are designed to protect endangered animals, there are a lot of ways in which people, corporations and capitalists are hurting the environment to this very day. She explores historical cases and gives a fascinating insight into how the many misdemeanours of companies and governments have devastated America’s once green and pleasant lands. Each essay is a masterpiece that deserves to be read at least once, if not several times so that you can understand Williams’ many meanings.
3. Oceana: Our Planet’s Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them: Written by Ted Dawson (yes, the actor from The Good Place) and journalist Mike D’Orso, this incredible book discusses an area of conservation that’s often overlooked: the world’s oceans. Our oceans are plundered for fish and often act as watery landfill sites for the world’s rubbish and waste. In this book, Dawson and D’Orso tackle this tough topic conversationally, and make realistic predictions and offer insightful ideas to help ordinary people understand the harm that could come to the world’s oceans if we don’t act, and soon. Many other activists, marine science experts and environmental lawyers are featured in the book and, through the use of visual aids such as charts, graphs, graphics and images, the writers make a powerful statement about what we need to do collectively and individually to help save the oceans before it’s too late.
2. Rainforest: Dispatches from Earth’s Most Vital Frontlines: Rainforests are the world’s most important lifeline, and yet they’re destroyed on a daily basis at a phenomenal and deeply worrying pace. Tony Juniper shares his first hand experiences of some of the world’s biggest forests and explains how these landscapes are changing and why it’s a bad thing, not just for rainforest enthusiasts and nature lovers, but for every inhabitant of the planet. After all, rainforests are home to more than half of the world’s species of plants, insects and animals, and they are the breathing lungs and beating heart of the natural world, but our practices, including logging and commercial farming, are killing them and rendering these wild paradises beyond repair. Juniper gives an impassioned account of what’s going on in this unforgettable book.
1 Wilding: Isabelle Tree’s incredible book about her work returning native wildlife, trees and plants to her husband’s family estate, Knepp in West Sussex. Originally run as a commercial farm, the estate wasn’t making a profit and was simply being cruel to animals and damaging the environment. Isabella and her husband were inspired by a Dutch re-wilding experiment. The book details their long struggle to get grants, approval and permission to welcome a range of native animals onto their land, and let them graze on plants that have grown in British soil for thousands of years. The author details the incredible struggle she and her family went through to get nature to return to this beautiful land and get it to live in harmony with people in this modern world. The book is very specific to the Knepp estate, but it is informative and makes for a great read.