Abundance: Nature in Recovery, Karen Lloyd. New York: Bloomsbury Wildlife, 2021.
Summary: A collection of essays describing both the loss of and recovery of abundance in the natural world, where people have caused harm and brought renewal.
Karen Lloyd is a border stalker. In this collection of essays, she describes her journeys throughout the UK and Europe at the border of where human activity is intersecting in the natural world–both for ill and for good. She describes her project using the ornithologist’s term of “getting your eye in”:
“When I turn on the news or read a newspaper, I am assailed by all the losses in the natural world. The natural world is being flushed out. In the natural world, there are no rites of passage to cope with this. Sometimes, frequently in fact–I am overwhelmed by all the losses and the reporting of all the losses, and what I want to do is get my eye in, in a different way. I want to use my binocular vision to look at and think about abundance and what that might mean. I want to take my binoculars into the field and see if it is still possible to see abundance–or something like it” (p. 14).
She begins her journey with the “murmurations” of starlings over East Cumbria and their response to the attempt of a peregrine falcon to penetrate the flock Her travels take her to the Netherlands, and attempts to site some of the wolves and jackals that are gradually returning and the debate over protecting these animals in what was once a natural habitat. A trip to Extremadura in southern Spain leads to sightings of vultures, harriers, and an abundance of bird species in a national park also devoted to wool production and lumber production serving the human population while preserving the natural environment allowing vultures to soar thermals and others to thrive.
We follow her and friends attempting to save a bird with a broken leg in eastern Hungary while chronicling the loss of the slender billed curlew, last sighted there. She describes efforts in Scotland to preserve beavers, that had slowly been eradicated by farmers and hunter. She witnesses the architecture of beaver lodges and dams, and the balance struck of running “beaver deceivers” through dams to pipe excess water through to regulate pond levels without disrupting the beavers efforts.
One of the more creative chapters was “Eighty Fragments on the Pelican” a “weird and perfectly adapted species. The most riveting chapter describes her time in the Carpathian forests of Romania, forests under threat of logging and an endangered habitat for bears. She takes us on a hike following bear tracks with a guide as well as her son, learning along the way not to get between a mother bear and her cubs, a hopeless situation.
As she observes the efforts of those seeking to balance human and natural interests and preserve abundance, she identifies their work as “cathedral thinking”–an attitude of planning and working that thinks in terms of future generations, even for centuries. She tells a wonderful story of Hatidze, a sixty year old woman in a rural village in Macedonia, who keeps bees, is never stung though not wearing protective gear, taking half a comb for her family, leaving half for the bees, exemplifying an ethic of respect and reciprocity.
This is a moving collection of essays. I felt I was present with the author on her travels. I was watching out for those bears, and reveling with her as she watched the vultures ride the thermals. She captures the joy of those working on the front lines to preserve and restore abundance and the love of these creatures. LLoyd articulates something often lacking in our environmental debates–the recognition that we must love what we seek to preserve and that there is a joy to be found in natural abundance.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.