This book’s cover says it all – Mark Avery is in your face, explaining his view of how to look after Britain’s birds, and our countryside, largely through a series of battles. Let me be clear, I’m reviewing the book, not Mark’s approach.
Chris Packham read it from start to finish without stopping – I took only two or three sittings. It’s a compelling read. A book of this nature, at its best, should inform, entertain, provoke thought, and even move the reader, and Mark managed all of these with me. He successfully transfers onto the page his passion for birds, for wildlife, for science, and for some people. He sets out, very clearly, the art and science of nature conservation, and explains the practicalities in a way that will improve understanding for any reader at any level. This is a personal perspective, with Mark’s contribution as an RSPB Director writ very large. Its combative feel will make new enemies, as well as further polarise those with strong views, either way, on his approach.
Mark’s story shares remarkably similar experiences to mine. Schoolboy mentors, early birding memories (do we all remember meeting Richard Richardson on Cley’s East Bank?) scientific research, upland fieldwork, all leading to a long career in nature conservation. As a professional I learnt a lot from this book – how and why the RSPB picked issues for advocacy, ideas on mitigating climate change, and that Swifts nest in Abernethy’s pines - I have to see that sometime! I laughed out loud, mostly when Mark was poking fun at himself and, yes, I was moved because his passion to do better for our planet and the life it sustains shines through – we all should take on at least some of his bullet-point manifesto for the future of a better world.
Whether you are enemy or friend, reading this account of a particular life in conservation will be time well spent.