The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy by Michael McCarthy

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The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy by Michael McCarthy

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Michael McCarthy is a leading writer on the environment. In this book, he argues that the joy which we experience in the natural world should used as a defence against its destruction. He describes how he came to fall in love with butterflies, when his family disintegrated in his boyhood. However, since then, the natural world has been denuded of many of its wonders. He argues that neither the concept of sustainable development, nor the attempt to put a value on the world’s ecosystems have been enough to stop the destruction.

He writes lyrically about the joy of discovering the beauty of nature, whether it involves watching waders on the Dee estuary, or being amazed by the colours of the morpho butterfly. He writes about the wonder of witnessing the revival of spring and watching dolphins. However, he also writes with despair about the destruction of a bay which provided a haven for migrating birds in South Korea and about the loss of wildlife in Britain, largely due to intensive agriculture. He talks about the rise of megacities and a generation of urban people who have hardly any contact with nature. He writes about love, his own fractured family life and about huge environmental pressures.

I found this book deeply moving. I have been interested in nature and wildlife since I was eleven. Oddly enough, it started when we moved from Rugby in Warwickshire to outer London, but there was an oak tree at the bottom of our garden. I loved the birds, from blue tits to greater spotted woodpeckers. One special place which I discovered in my teens is Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey. My father had built a boat and wanted a place to moor it. We arrived at a strange and mournful place. Flat, green pasture crossed by drainage channels gave way to grey water and, when the tide went out, sheets of deep mud. I wasn’t much interested in sailing, but I was captivated by the wildlife. I remember, even now, seeing adders and stoats and watching clouds of oystercatchers taking off from the mudflats. The sailing club to which we belonged was a ramshackle business and eventually folded. To my delight, it became an RSPB reserve.

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