The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann – A Book Review

I’m not exactly sure who recommended this book to me but I think it was one of my followers on social media. As always in such cases, I bookmarked it for later. After a few months I finally, and I must admit reluctantly, decided to give it a try. And boy, did I not regret it! So I’m writing this short review to return the favour and recommend it to you.

Given the topic of my podcast I am often entangled in discussions and debates about the natural environment, the role humans play in it and the best way forward for us. Those discussions are often heated and, I must admit, it is sometimes hard for me to make sense of some of the points being made. I’m sure that some of you can relate to this situation so I’m glad to let you know that this book will help you to make sense of it all!

The author discusses two fundamentally different philosophical approaches to humanity’s relation to the natural environment. “Wizards” rely on technology and human ability to change and shape the environment beyond what’s possible for other living creatures. “Prophets” insist that humans are just living organisms subject to the same natural laws as all others on this planet. These two opposing concepts result in different opinions as to the correct course of action for humanity going forward.

The book deals with a number of hot button topics and discusses them from both perspectives. The list includes climate change, farming, population growth, GMO foods, geoengineering and more. It is rich in historical facts and discusses important events, such as scientific discoveries, wars and famines, and how they changed the approach or caused a course correction for both “wizards” and “prophets.”

Don’t make the mistake, like I almost did, of thinking that reading this book would be a waste of time because you already have your own opinions on these subjects. As always, the differences are more nuanced than you might think. And as I said at the beginning, knowing the origin of these differences will help you understand why some people are making the arguments they do.

It is a highly recommended read and you can easily get the book using the link below. And by doing so, you will support my work as I will get a small commission. Don’t worry it won’t affect the price!


In forty years, the population of the Earth will reach ten billion. Can our world support so many people? What kind of world will it be? In this unique, original and important book, Charles C. Mann illuminates the four great challenges we face – food, water, energy, climate change – through an exploration of the crucial work and wide-ranging influence of two little-known twentieth-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt.

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

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. Subscribe now, so you don’t miss it when it’s published.)

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…

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Support the Podcast and Buy Me a Coffee

For the past four years, I’ve been providing you with recorded conversations about wildlife and the natural environment. My guests range from the world’s top scientists, members of environmental organizations and award-winning authors, to hunters and anglers with a lifetime of experience. We often discuss difficult and unpopular topics. This is all in the name of sharing ideas and understanding different points of view on critical environmental issues. For all of you who want to support Tommy’s Outdoors podcast and my work, now you can buy me a coffee! Simply go to buymeacoffee.com/tommysoutdoors and do your thing. Thanks!!!

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Sorry for trashing your mailbox

My dear valued subscribers, last week you might have received a strange email with a bunch of links and code. As you can probably imagine it was sent as a result of an error that happened while making improvements to the Tommy’s Outdoors website. Sorry about that.

I am gearing up for some significant technical changes to the podcast and these modifications to the website were necessary prerequisites. As one of the changes, I have replaced the SoundCloud embedded player with the one from Spotify. Also, now the website loads quicker on mobile devices.

As an added bonus, Tommy’s Outdoors podcast is now also available on Audible and Amazon Music. Thank you for your continued support and I hope you will enjoy this week’s podcast. Coming up soon!

Beak, Tooth and Claw by Mary Colwell – A Book Review

It’s not often that I write a book review. But every now and then I come across a book that I really wish everybody I know would read. In my podcast, the subject of our difficult coexistence with wildlife is featured in many episodes. By far the most complex and difficult issue is our coexistence with predators. Since the dawn of time, our species has lived in danger of being preyed upon, while at the same time competing for prey. With the development of farming, this conflict continued as we protected farm animals from predation. This created a deeply rooted aversion to predators and, as a result, today almost all of their populations are severely depleted.

Nowadays, we are becoming acutely aware of our impact on the environment and that it is not always something to be proud of. A complex picture emerges. We are torn between the old animosity towards predators and the new urge to preserve them or even rebuild their populations. In her book “Beak, Tooth and Claw”, Mary Colwell goes deep into this complicated topic, carefully examining our past and present relationships with predators living in Britain. And although the book is focused on Britain I believe it is equally relevant to Ireland or any other country. It is about the human relationship with predators in general. 

After the introduction to what a predator is (we don’t tend to think about badgers or tits as predators), Mary dedicated a chapter to each species. Foxes, badgers, eagles, corvids, lynx, wolves and so on. From these chapters, the reader can absorb many interesting scientific facts. What makes this book stand out is that it presents and acknowledges arguments from people on both sides of the spectrum. Those who want to kill and control predators and those who oppose such practices. In this regard, Mary does an excellent job! Never once did I feel like she was arguing from a moral high ground and telling the reader what to think.

What struck me while reading this book is the same thing that I noticed during the conversation, on my podcast, with environmentalist and photographer, Peter Cairns. The presence or notion of reintroduction of any predator species is always controversial and makes some group unhappy. Whether birds or mammals, if they’re causing any inconvenience to humans, we want them gone. Or at least pretty close to gone. And while that is too extreme, because humans have modified the natural balance between species, some lethal control measures are required and even well justified.

I would really thoroughly recommend this book for anyone interested in nature, conservation, hunting, farming or rewilding. If you approach it with an open mind and without prejudice, it will serve some serious food for thought. It might be your springboard to a deeper understanding of these complex problems.

If and when the opportunity arises, I would love to chat with Mary on my podcast. Until then, do yourself a favour and order a copy of “Beak, Tooth and Claw”. You won’t be disappointed. 


Mary Colwell travels across the UK and Ireland to encounter the predators face to face. She watches their lives in the wild and discovers how they fit into the landscape. She talks to the scientists studying them and the wildlife lovers who want to protect them. She also meets the people who want to control them to protect their livelihoods or sporting interests.

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Housekeeping 2021

Dear readers, listeners, viewers, followers and subscribers! This is the 4th annual housekeeping blog. I summarize the past year and outline my plans for Tommy’s Outdoors for the coming year 2021.

Last year, like those before, was mainly dedicated to the podcast. I published 26 episodes and this year the podcast will remain the core of Tommy’s Outdoors content. One significant change, made late last year, was to switch the category under which the podcast is listed from ‘sports’ to ‘education’. I believe we all feel that this change more accurately reflects the content.

Like many of us, in 2020 I moved almost all my activity on-line. Only 6 out of 26 episodes were recorded face to face, two of those were from the previous year. The explosion of the popularity of Zoom and other online communication platforms made scheduling remote podcasts much easier. As a nice side effect, now all the episodes of my podcast are also available in video on my YouTube channel.

Speaking about my YouTube channel… I hope you have all subscribed by now, but if not, please do it here. The simple act of subscribing helps me a lot. I will continue to experiment with various video genres: podcasts, vlogs, reviews and more. Please don’t forget to let me know in the comments which type of videos you like the most. 

Overall, in 2020 Tommy’s Outdoors grew across all platforms 77% compared to the previous year. That’s a significant improvement from the previous annual growth figure of 45%. I am delighted to see that the growth of Tommy’s Outdoors is accelerating and I would like to thank you all for making it happen. After all, it’s you and your interest in my content that is driving this growth!

I wish you all the very best for the year 2021.

Angling for Critically Endangered Fish

My good fishing buddy posted some photos from his two-day boat fishing trip. One of the typical grip-and-grin photos showed him with the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus). This made me envious. As a compulsive-obsessive shark angler, I chased these sharks for many years. I was only successful once and the specimen I caught was very young and rather small. To me, it didn’t really count. So this species of sharks is still on my to-do, or more precisely, my to-catch list. 

But here lies the issue and the reason why it is such a big deal to catch one of these sharks. After long years of exploitation and unregulated fishing their population collapsed. Now they are incredibly scarce and, although in recent years there seems to be an increase in catches and sightings, it isn’t clear if it is an indication of a recovering population or just a shift in distribution. Regardless, they are still firmly listed as critically endangered in the Northeast Atlantic where most of our angling activities take place. This obviously poses some problems and rather uncomfortable questions. 

Those of you who are following me might even remember that just a few days before my friend’s fishing trip, an officer of one of the environmental NGOs expressed his irritation after another angler posted a video of himself landing a skate. Another species of critically endangered fish. That sparked an interesting discussion related to scientific tagging programmes that, by their very nature, require these rare and endangered fish to be caught, boated, tagged and then released.

In this blog, it is not my intention to defend or condemn anyone’s position. As always these situations are complex and there are many factors to consider. For example, is there a landing platform, how quickly is the fish unhooked, and how promptly is it returned to the water? They almost have to be taken on a case by case basis. Instead, I want to share some of my thoughts. I started to ask myself what I would do in my friend’s shoes. Would I pose for a grip-and-grin photo and point out the benefits of a tagging programme? Likely. Would I point fingers at past exploitation by commercial fishermen and contrast it with the negligible impact that anglers have on the shark population? Probably. I have done all of the above before.

Unfortunately, we have to face up to the reality that without changes in the current status-quo, we either run out of fish to catch, some species sooner than others, or we run out of the fish species we are allowed to catch. Most of us anglers talk a lot about the conservation of fish stocks. But do we have the guts to put our money where our mouth is? We talk a lot about fish welfare and the importance of catch & release. But do we have the resolve to not target certain species of fish, even if it’s legal? And would it even matter? Perhaps, the loss of some species is inevitable and the only approach that makes sense is, catch them while you can. Because soon enough they’ll be gone. Forever.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section down below or on one of my social media pages.

Lockdown Fishing

Like most of you I feel the impact of the covid pandemic. Outdoor pursuits are among the impacted activities. Even though many of them could be considered the original forms of social distancing. Obviously any travel, even very near, is off the table. Luckily for me I have access to a beautiful coastal area just a few hundred meters outside my front door. That of course means that angling is my daily exercise of choice. 

I know a few tried fishing marks in this area. Under normal circumstances, I don’t usually fish them. Ironically, I used to when I lived in the nearby town and had to drive half an hour to reach them. That made me think about how often we overlook what’s within our reach and instead opt for some “better”, more inaccessible, locations for our activities. It’s like the old angling saying, “The biggest perch are always closer to the opposite bank”. Does that sound familiar?

How often does the lockdown force us to discover or rediscover outdoor gems that we overlooked because they are so close and familiar that they seem bland and boring? In any case, I intend to make the best of what I have and, who knows, maybe catch an unexpected specimen fish!

I have a killer podcast for you

This week on Tommy’s Outdoors was a little quiet, but not because of the unfolding situation with COVID-19. It was due to some high priority work that I’m involved with. You can read more about it in my housekeeping blog from the beginning of the year. But worry not, as per the usual schedule, next week I have a killer podcast for you. It’s going to be about nature, conservation and hunting. But it’s not going to be the usual “hunting is conservation” mantra, coming from someone with a lot of pictures of dead stuff on his Instagram page. So don’t forget to tune in. In fact, the best you can do is subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! It is available on all podcast platforms and on YouTube.

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Housekeeping 2020

It’s been a while since our last housekeeping update. So in this blog, I’m going to tell you what I’ve been up to recently and what to expect from Tommy’s Outdoors going forward.

First, I need to give myself a pat on the back. At the beginning of 2019, I promised to put out at least 30 episodes of the podcast. With episode 60 published on the 25th of December, I have successfully kept my promise.

In the coming year, I will keep the podcast on a biweekly schedule with new episodes published every second Wednesday. However, I am planning to do a few releases on Tuesdays to see if you like the timing better. As always, if you have any comments on this matter please leave them down below.

You’re going to see much more content on Tommy’s Outdoors YouTube channel. The videos will range from regular vlog updates to feel-good outdoors videos, from event reports to documentaries related to the issues important for outdoors people. I also hope to put out more video podcasts like this one.

Importantly, I am planning to cut back on the content on non-podcast weeks and use that time to focus on bigger projects, such as more ambitious video productions or blogs and articles that require more extensive research. I still might put out an odd blog post or vlog on those weeks, but I want to focus on quality over quantity.

Finally, you will see more affiliate links to products and services. This means that if you click on one of the product links and make any purchase (not necessarily the product that is linked), I will receive a small commission that helps me with the financial cost of running Tommy’s Outdoors platform. Obviously, the price you pay for the product won’t be affected. So if you need that roll of duct tape, go ahead and buy it through one of the links. You will get what you need and you will help me run the website and the podcast while you’re at it.