Simon Barnes

How to be wild

“I have no doubt that every reader of this magazine has experienced awe in nature, even if we prefer to shut up about it. Awe probably got you into this in the first place.”

How to be wild

“Ecology is about seeing whole, and I suspect that seeing whole is a more important aspect of wellbeing than self-deception.”

How to be wild

“As a climber needs to have a head for heights, so a naturalist needs a head for sadness. Sadness is a price we pay for our connection with nature.”

How to be wild

“I remember the excitement I felt when I first saw a Marsh Harrier and it was great and it helped to shape my life. I was already mad for nature back then, but I was hardly an aficionado.”

How to be wild

“Maybe we’ve reached the stage when the world knows that the issue we’re talking about – global destruction – is not exactly sentimental… so it might even be OK to admit that we rather like fluffy animals.”

How to be wild

“Anthropomorphism helps us to understand the world. We even anthropomorphise the weather: brutal storm, gentle evening, it’s been trying to rain all day. Anthropomorphism is inevitable, because we are all anthropoi.”

How to be wild

“So Keats is either a bad observer or a liar. He made a mistake or he made it up. The question is: does this mar the poem?”

How to be wild

“I remember the unspeakable excitement of the first Marsh Harrier I ever saw. Now I live with Marsh Harriers and in peak season I see them daily. And no, it’s not unspeakably exciting any more – it’s better than that, much better.”

How to be wild

“It was a historic opportunity: the first time such a thing had been offered in a dozen millennia. And there were some strange indications that at least some people were taking it. With the sudden unexpected gift of time, people noticed that at least parts of the natural world were still here.”

How to be wild

“Now, I am quite keen on the environment myself – you see, I happen to live in it.”

How to be wild

“We know that there is no such thing as magic – but we still love the idea of magic.”

How to be wild

“I have grown accustomed to the belief in media circles – people whose job it is to understand the beliefs and needs of the public – that anything to do with wildlife is trivial. Something that makes a nice photograph.”

How to be wild

"Time. It’s perhaps the biggest problem of conservation. The people we are trying to talk to do not understand the idea of what we might call Wild Time."

How to be wild

"This is the year when extinction made the news pages. Not threatened extinction or even national extinction, but actual whole-hog gone-forever extinction."

How to be wild

"There have been many pieces of research on the personal and societal benefits of wild spaces and wild experiences, and how they improve physical and mental health. Birdsong makes you happier, woodland walks help you to concentrate on your work better, a nice view helps you to recover better from your operation, and so on

How to be wild

"Dolphins and walruses are more popular than famous people. At a time when fame is supposed to be absolutely everything, people prefer fish."

How to be wild

"I’m not in conservation because I believe that we are stewards of the planet with responsibility to ‘lesser’ beings. I’m not in conservation because it’s in the best interests of humanity to look after the one planet we’ve got (though it is). I’m in conservation because I really like – all right then, let’s be

How to be wild

"Minsmere is remarkable for Avocets, for Marsh  Harriers, for Bitterns – and for humans. Humans often arrive in pairs, but form small flocks and sometimes murmurations that swirl from hide to café and back to hide again. Some are crash-hot birders, some are competent, some are brand spanking new to it all. I remember a

How to be wild

"It is time to dispense with the duty of optimism. It’s  too much like hard work and, besides, it makes us  look soft in the head. When conservation puts on its well-mannered public face, it has – we have – a tendency to default to an idiot optimism."

How to be wild

“And yet our language insists that animals are animals and humans are something quite different, so much so that to call someone an animal is as powerful an insult as you can come up with.”

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