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An Indifference of Birds (cover)

Publisher: Uniformbooks, Axminster

Publication Year: 2020

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 109

ISBN Number: 9781910010228

Price: £ 12.00

An Indifference of Birds

In this brilliant book, Smyth shines a light on the relationship between birds and humans. In particular, on the roles we have played, and continue to play, in bird lives and histories. In doing so, he gently challenges mainstream narratives in modern-day conservation, prompting the reader to examine their own notions of value and motivation. Smyth looks at the various ways in which we have given to and taken from birds, tipped the balances to favour some birds to the detriment of others. Ideas such as shifting baselines, re-introduction and naturalness are explored and teased out. In doing so, he exposes some of the inconsistencies that abound in our regard for and treatment of birds (and for the world that they and we live in). These ideas are also looked at from a “bird’s eye view”, setting them against the moment-to-moment struggle to find food and shelter, to raise young, to stay alive. Smyth returns repeatedly to the eponymous conclusion of the book; that in spite of our profound impact on their lives, individual birds are supremely indifferent to us. At the same time, he eloquently, artfully, joyfully celebrates birds, and what they mean to us. The book is short (I finished it in a single weekend), reading like  a short series of lectures. But, brevity notwithstanding, it takes the reader along very different paths from those trodden by other nature-oriented contemporaries. I whole-heartedly commend it, and the author, for the quality of his writing, the clarity of his thought, and his passion for those indifferent birds!

Book reviewed by Mark Wilson

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