Biodiversity Book Club

Biodiversity is a big word but a ‘biodiverse habit’ just means a place where many different types of plants and animals can live. With more time than usual to read books let’s have a look today at those books which will get us thinking about biodiversity even if we can’t get out into the countryside as much as we would like to.

I’m starting with a book that any age can read and is particularly suitable for reading together as a family. It’s The Lost Words, a spell book, by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris.

Visitors to The Sill in February and March were able to admire some of Jackie Morris’ extraordinarily beautiful illustrations displayed in our temporary exhibition space. I was lucky enough to see the refreshed exhibition on the last weekend The Sill was open.  On my daily walk at the moment I can’t help but think of Jackie’s illustration of a barn owl gliding over a similar bluebell wood to the one near my home. The Lost Words is indeed a spell book. Read Robert’s poems aloud and you may just ensure that some simple contributors to biodiversity that we may have been taking for granted (bramble, conker, starling, magpie, dandelion) are remembered and appreciated.

Earth Day last week reminded us that there have been worries about how humans may damage the environment for over fifty years now, so my next recommendation is a classic children’s book written in 1971.  The Lorax by Dr. Seuss draws adults and children alike into a beautifully crafted imaginary place with imaginary creatures and imaginary heroes and villains. But is this imaginary?  In true Dr.Seuss style the similarities to our world and actions are pretty easy to spot. This book is a great way to get conversations about conservation started with 5+ age children.

Book covers for The Secret Life of Cows and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference

Let’s dive into a particular habitat now and try The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young. This is an easy read that reminds us that observations of domestic farm animals can be as rewarding as those documentaries about wild animals in less familiar countryside. Animal loving teenagers will enjoy this book and parents may want to share some of the lovingly journaled behaviour of the cows on the author’s organic farm by reading out snippets.  A similar first- hand account of day to day life on a British farm, and more about the human’s experiences than the animals, is James Rebank’s The Shepherd’s Life.

Staying with a farming theme, Wilding, the Return of Nature to a British Farm, by Isabella Tree tells a compelling account of what happens if nature rather than man is given the upper hand. This book is particularly interesting because the author and her husband changed their way of managing their West Sussex farm because it was not doing well financially. The result after fifteen years plus of farming differently led to staggering increases in biodiversity and better economic returns from the farm.

The last book that will get everyone in the family thinking about the environment in general is No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg. The book itself is very small, and contains all the public speeches that this extraordinary teenager has given over the past few years. Very inspiring!

If none of these books are sitting unread on your bookshelf you’ll find that as well as the big book suppliers many small independent book shops are taking orders and delivering books.

Watch out for a later blog about making your own biodiversity book and remember what the Lorax says: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Mandy loves reading and is in two book groups.  Her top tip if the reading list gets daunting is to download an audible book that can be listened to whilst doing other things or to watch a film version.