The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees by Steve Cracknell – A Book Review

I have followed Steve Cracknell’s work for some time and so, as soon as I learned that he was going to publish a new book, I began to wait for the release date. Without exaggeration, I can say that for me it was the most anticipated book of the year. And when I finally got it in my hands, it not only lived up to but exceeded my expectations!

(I obviously couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk with Steve on my podcast. You can listen to our conversation here.)

The first thing you notice when you hold the book is that it’s heavy! From the high-quality chalk paper, beautifully reproduced photos and careful typesetting to the deliberate font typeface selection, the quality is absolutely top-notch. No detail was left unattended. It is easily the best put-together book I’ve had in my hands for over a decade! As a result, its photos in online bookstores don’t do it justice. Yes, it’s more expensive than your average book, but it’s worth every penny. And now, let’s talk about the content.

As the title suggests, the book is about rewilding. In the late 90s, a rewilding program in the Pyrenees started with the release of a brown bear named Pyros. Over the coming years, more bears were introduced from Slovakia. Predictably, this sparked an ongoing conflict. On the one side, are the anti-bear organizations that consist mainly of shepherds who are sustaining losses to their flocks. On the other side are the environmentalists and the government who are pushing for further rewilding.

One could mistakenly think that this conflict is black and white and without nuance. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are farmers and shepherds who are willing to accept their losses and members of non-farming communities who are not particularly fond of sharing the landscape with large carnivores. And so, Steve’s book takes us into the middle of the conflict through the author’s first-hand experiences, engaging interviews and historical outlines. All that against the background of the beautiful mountain landscapes and culture-rich scenery of rural France.

However, most importantly the book remains balanced and unbiased. And although the author admits that being completely objective is nearly impossible, he goes to great lengths to give all sides a fair opportunity to express their views. So in the end, the book leaves the reader with beautiful pictures in his head and substantial amounts of food for thought.

When I finished the book I felt a sense of loss because I wanted to keep on reading. That’s how I can tell a great book. Whether you are stoked about the rewilding movement or you’re one of its fierce opponents, I would recommend it without any hesitation. Go and buy it now!

The return of large predators might help to reinvigorate nature. But are wild animals like wolves and bears compatible with livestock farming? Will their arrival destroy mountain communities? Unable to decide on the issues, Steve Cracknell climbs up to the isolated summer pastures of the Pyrenees to talk with those most concerned: the shepherds. He also meets hunters and ecologists – and goes looking for bears…

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