Here are new books by three of Britain’s leading natural history writers. Peter Marren and Michael McCarthy have long been controversialists, increasingly alarmed by the collapse of wildlife populations. Matthew Oates has worked in butterfly protection for forty years, becoming a public expert and adviser to the National Trust. All are well known for their columns and blogs.
Each of these books tells the story of a fascination that started in childhood in the 1950s or 1960s, and each confronts the same shocking change. McCarthy sums it up. Since his birth, Britain has wiped out half of its wildlife. Not half its species, but roughly half the total number of individuals. Most of our fields no longer teem with birds and insects. Once-ordinary creatures have become rare. McCarthy calls this loss ‘the great thinning’, and one of his examples is the memory of summer evenings when moths in