Publisher: William Collins Books
Genre: Non-fiction, anthropology, environmental science, natural history, animal rights.
What happens when humans foresake and ruin landscapes? They are never truly abandoned. Instead they are engulfed by the non-human world and they become teeming with many other foresaken wild lifeforms. The weeds, plants, insects, birds and large mammals move in and populate these places. Pushed to the brink of extinction elsewhere by the ever-expanding need for human progress – these ugly, abandoned fringes of our world are the places where these animals can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Islands of Abandonment is a book-length poem and an ode to the places humans have used, abused and then rejected due to pollution, war, or physical danger.
Degeneration is never far away
The guts, bones and musculature of a man-made structure hide behind only a thin layer of paint and plaster. A single damp winter or fertile spring and an unoccupied house will mildew and mould. Windows will cloud. The rigor mortis of the built environment will take hold, doors will jam, joints expand.
[Pictured: The main street of an abandoned village in the Outer Hebridean island of St Kilda]
Not fit for human habitation – these places of ruination have been given back to non-human beings that live in a dimly lit twilight zone of unknown dangers. Yet despite hazards like poisoned rivers, bomb-strewn landscapes or toxic nuclear waste – the miraculous happens, life finds a way to persist in the absence of humans.
This is an incredible book and if I could rate it as six stars then I would! Beautifully worded, poetic and evocative of time and place, while also being incredibly informative.
A true mark of masterful non-fiction is when a book never makes you feel like you are being ‘educated’ about something, instead this book feels like a sweeping epic novel.
It was never a chore or a duty to read this, no sentence or word is wasted. It’s the kind of book you could read over and over – particularly if you have a passion for the environment, animal rights or ecology.
These are stories of redemption, not restoration. These sites will never again return to the way they were. But what they do offer us is insights into the processes of reparation and adaptation, and more valuable still – they offer us hope. They remind us that even in the most desperate of circumstances, all is not yet lost.Islands of Abandonment, pp. 26.
There has been a sea change in how post-industrial and other ‘anthropogenic’ sites are perceived and valued in recent years. Some of the most exciting developments in ecology and conservation have been in the study of landscapes deeply impacted by human activities.
3 thoughts on “Book Review: Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flynn”
This looks fascinating. There’s a sense of triumph, and wonder, and many other things besides.
This sounds like my kind of book. Wearing my threadbare prehistorian’s hat, I sometimes think we humans think too much of ourselves when it comes to assessing the extent of presumed damage we cause; the guilt we make much of, as if the damage is permanent. (That’s not to say I approve at all of destructive human activities). But all is reclaimed, one way and another. And then there are the natural forces that create mega-wastelands that in time too, take on new existences. Many thanks for your review. And wishing you a happy new year.
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That’s so true Tish it is eventually reclaimed one way or another. There is something bittersweet about this. Thank you so much for reading 📚 this and I’m so glad you are considering getting thus book you won’t regret it either. I hope you have a great 2023 too, big hugs 🫂 🤗
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