ECOS 39(5): Book review: PLOUGHING A NEW FURROW

ECOS 39(5)

PLOUGHING A NEW FURROW

A blueprint for wildlife friendly farming

Malcolm Smith

Whittles Publishing

2018

272 pages

Paperback £18.99

ISBN: 978-1-8499-5328-3

Review by Will Manley

How can Britain's farmers be helped to nurture wildlife...?

This is a timely publication amidst the opportunity for significant changes to political and monetary support for UK agriculture and the environment post Brexit. It is an easy read with an added light and human touch that enhances the chapters, although it is not rigorously edited or academically referenced. The author Malcolm Smith was a former policy practitioner on countryside and wildlife matters in Welsh agencies.

The first chapters provide an informed background and historical review of land management and agricultural policies, attempting to cover impacts on the farmed landscapes across the regions of the UK. Subsequent chapters address issues including the Common Agricultural Policy, insects, birds, soil, upland farming, and organic agriculture. These chapters attempt to explain, and in part excuse or dissipate blame, for the past, current, and future state of wildlife’s co-existence with farming. The author is evidently partisan, and he has sought out a cross section of opinion from environmentalists and farmers, but has perhaps leaned more on the progressive spectrum of farmers and land owners.

In many instances the text makes for uncomfortable reading from a farmer perspective. The book provides an informed perspective on the agricultural industry and reinforces the condemnations of political and policy measures that influence farming to the detriment of wildlife. The author has however generally avoided direct criticism of farmers themselves, as the concerns focused upon are the consequences of technological change, economic drivers and agricultural policies.

The final part highlights the concept of some form of mandatory training for farmers to boost their skills and understanding of agri-environment. Not all, but a significant proportion of farmers’ activities in agri-environment initiatives have been rather mechanistically driven and adhered to. A paradigm shift in hearts and minds, as well as learning and knowledge, is also needed to achieve more for nature and the environment.

ECOS 39(5): Contents

Wilding by Isabella Tree

Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather by Tessa Boase

Ploughing a New Furrow by Malcom Smith

Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell

End of the Megafauna by Ross D. E. MacPhee

A Shadow Above by Joe Shute

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