Two Roads (2020)

ISBN 978-1529350395

Reviewed by Piers Warren

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This book made me angry. Or, to be more precise, angrier. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad I read it, I urge you to read it and I wish everyone in the UK would read it – especially our politicians.

Each chapter is largely written by Chris Packham with two or three inserts by Megan McCubbin (Chris’s step-daughter and co-presenter on Springwatch and The Self-Isolating Bird Club). Megan’s pieces are always interesting and vary from new scientific discoveries in zoology to the latest conservation initiative news to her personal views on trying to make a difference.

Back to anger. In each of the nine chapters Chris focuses on aspects of the destruction of Nature that disturb him, and then offers some solutions – either ones that we can make personally ourselves or ones that need to be tackled on a national political level. I consider myself an environmentalist so I knew about all the issues covered, but to hear about the latest detail, the unbelievable stupidity from politicians and decision-makers, just made me even angrier than I was already. That might sound negative but surely anger is the correct response when dealing with destruction of what is most dear to me (not to mention leading to extinction for many living things including human animals).

For example, atrocities covered include the culling of badgers, the damage caused by HS2 (High Speed Rail), grouse shooting, native mountain hare culls, the use of lead shot, pesticides, the ‘pharmed’ salmon industry, destruction of wildflower meadows and hedgerows, and much more besides. Ridiculous dichotomies are exposed; such as the culling of wild beavers in some parts of the country while they are being reintroduced in others. Above all I came away with the feeling that we have all the solutions to these problems clearly available, backed up by science, but there is not only no political will, but the levels of corruption, greed, short-sightedness and sheer stupidity is overwhelming. What does it say about priorities when our government spends many multitudes more on HS2 (enabling a few privileged people to get from A to B slightly faster, despite ripping up ancient woodlands and ‘protected’ natural areas to do so) than it does on tackling climate change – the biggest existential threat we have faced. Short-term gain at the expense of our children’s futures. It makes the blood boil.

It’s clear from the book that governments seem incapable of listening to scientific advice. Having said that, Covid19 has shown that (some of the time) they do appear to ‘led by science’ when voters lives are in immediate danger, but make that danger apparently slightly further away (climate change) and they still let profits, power and the insane myth of never-ending economic growth overpower any shred of common sense. Badger-culling is another example covered in the book where science is ignored. It was proved in the 1970’s that culling (to reduce the spread of bovine TB) was ineffective, and has been proved thus many times since, and yet, at the time of writing this review, the level of culling is being increased to cover even larger areas of the UK. No wonder scientists despair, let alone those of us who love and value wildlife.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, Chris explains what we could and should be doing and describes many of the initiatives that do wonderful things, many of which we can get involved with. He finishes with the case for activism and is a great fan and supporter of Extinction Rebellion and all they have achieved – especially in 2019. He also briefly introduces a new project he and Megan launched in 2020 – Wildlife Rebellion – to draw attention to the world’s loss of biodiversity. Activities were put on hold due to the Covid19 lockdowns, but watch this space…