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IS WILDNESS OVER? by Paul Wapner book review

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Books
IS WILDNESS OVER? by Paul Wapner book review
19 Mar
2020
by Paul Wapner • Polity Books • £9.99 (paperback)

We can’t seem to stop can we? We’ve known about the climate crisis for some time but still our behaviours remain largely unchanged. Global climate emissions have doubled from what they were in 1992; sales of SUVs outstripped electric vehicles by 37 to 1 last year and even organic vegetables come wrapped in ever-more layers of plastic. Somewhere there’s this feeling that the Earth can’t be in that much trouble when life still feels so comfortable, so cosy, so safe. There are still nice new sofas, air-conditioned cars, helpful tech and warm showers.

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But, that, argues Wapner is precisely the problem. Wildness, he believes, is an irrepressible force. Banish it from our day-to-day existence and it doesn’t just disappear, it’s simply displaced. ‘Wildness is far from being over,’ he writes. ‘If anything, it has merely taken on a new face. Today unpredictability, instead of inconveniencing people’s everyday lives, plagues the Earth as a whole.

After centuries of being beaten down, the feral has re-emerged – only this time across the planet and on steroids.’ Climate change is part of this new global-scale wildness – ‘a type... not only more ferocious but ultimately more extensive and terrifying owing to the concentrated and accumulated dynamics involved.’

So, what to do? Absorb some of the wildness back within ourselves suggests Wapner. Embrace discomfort. Accept that we might be colder in winter, even inside our apartments; risk more encounters with strangers by taking public transport; take fewer, shorter showers. It’s not the answer to climate change he concedes, it’s a response. But there are no answers. It’s all about mitigation now. We’ve woken the giant, believes Wapner. Enraged Gaia. A mighty reckoning is coming and it’s about walking through that dark valley with as much respect and kindness to the planet – and every being who calls it home – as we can muster.

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