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

Episode 109: When Accidents Happen with Moose Mutlow

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Podcasts

More than three years ago, I wrote a blog about safety in the outdoors. It is a very important topic for us outdoors people and I feel like I haven’t talked about it nearly often enough. Therefore I welcomed the opportunity to talk with Moose Mutlow who is a senior trainer for Yosemite Search and Rescue. As it happens, Moose just published his new book “When Accidents Happen: Managing Crisis Communication as a Family Liaison Officer.

Moose has an impressive resume of outdoor experiences and has been involved in traditional and alternative education for over 30 years. He was born and grew up in England, started teaching outdoor education in the Lake District and the South of France and spent time in the Arctic, Australia, Africa and the USA guiding and working for Outward Bound. Among other things, he has been a fishery officer, bar manager, social worker, principal at an elite sporting academy and a teacher in the Kalahari.


When Accidents Happen introduces how to meet the challenges of being a Family Liaison Officer and offers a reference to help support experienced FLO’s in their role. Backing up suggestions with examples from the field the text maps an approach to being a FLO, acknowledging the potential strengths and weaknesses of the position and defining clear parameters for FLO’s to successfully operate within.

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

Episode 105: Human, Nature with Ian Carter

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Podcasts

Keeping a diary can be a useful thing. Especially if the diarist focuses on events and experiences pertaining to their area of expertise. Ian Carter, naturalist, ornithologist and author, has kept his wildlife diary for over three decades. Ian worked for Natural England, a governmental advisory body, for twenty-five years. He has written articles for respected wildlife magazines and has co-authored papers in scientific journals. Ian was also involved with the Red Kite reintroduction programme and other bird reintroductions and wildlife management programs. 

It was therefore my pleasure to chat with Ian on my podcast about his latest book titled “Human, Nature – A Naturalist’s Thoughts on Wildlife and Wild Places” published by Pelagic Publishing. The book is an elaboration on Ian’s diary. It discusses his observations and extends them to wider philosophical questions related to our interactions with wildlife. Many of those questions and observations are quite similar to the ones I myself have accumulated over time. So I really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss them with Ian.

I would definitely recommend Ian’s book to all wildlife enthusiasts. It comprehensively discusses most, if not all, topics related to nature conservation and our relationship with wildlife. A special shoutout to Pelagic Publishing, an independent academic publisher of books on wildlife, science and conservation.


What does it mean to be a part of―rather than apart from―nature? This book is about how we interact with wildlife and the ways in which this can make our lives richer and more fulfilling. But it also explores the conflicts and contradictions inevitable in a world that is now so completely dominated by our own species.

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

Episode 101: Beak, Tooth and Claw with Mary Colwell

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Podcasts

Last month, I wrote a review of an excellent book titled “Beak, Tooth and Claw: Living with Predators in Britain” by Mary Colwell. At the end of that blog, I said that I would really love to have an opportunity to talk with Mary on my podcast. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long! After a brief exchange of messages, Mary and I agreed to get together and record an episode.

Mary Colwell is an environmentalist, campaigner, freelance producer and author. She is also well known for her work protecting an endangered wader, the Eurasian Curlew.

During the podcast, we talked about her motivations for writing the book and its reception. We also discussed how Mary approached the research required to write her book, along with various facets of living with predators and the complexity of issues this creates. From there we went on to the ever-interesting subjects of conservation and rewilding.

Obviously, this podcast wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the curlew, our largest wader. Mary explains why the curlew population is declining so rapidly, what is being done to stop this trend, and what can you do to help out!


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

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

Episode 85: Time nor Tide with Ben Harkin

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Podcasts

Climate change, in one way or another, is mentioned in almost every episode of my podcast. But with the exception of episode 38, which was a recorded public talk, I have never dedicated a whole episode to this important issue. But today we’re going to jump right into this subject with Ben Harkin who wrote a book about climate change in the Irish context. Ben is a young man who decided to put to good use the extra time he had available during the lockdown and wrote a book about climate change! Not only that, he also self-published it to avoid any delays with getting his message out. Talk about a good use of time!

I read the book and must say that I’m blown away by it. It is well written and covers a wide spectrum of climate change issues. Ben put a lot of effort into research for the book and all key information and statements are backed up with ample references to scientific papers, press releases, governmental documents and other books. In the book, Ben makes many refreshing observations that I have not heard before. What are they? You need to buy the book and read it for yourself! One thing for sure you won’t regret your purchase. And with the Christmas season around the corner, you just might have an excellent gift idea!

Given all of the above, I was really pleased to be able to sit down with Ben and talk about his book. In this episode, we not only discuss some of the issues he mentions but also his motives and the process of writing the book. I am very happy with this episode and Ben is a great man. Go, listen, and then buy the book!


Drawing on research from Ireland and across the world, this book explains what we can expect for the future in Ireland with climate change, and how we can move to limit the worst impacts. Combining studies and stories, Ben Harkin explains how we can use the technology we already have to bring our country to being carbon neutral, while building a better future for all.

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