Our latest Q and A is with the environmental campaigner and former head of Friends of the Earth (England, Wales, N. Ireland), Tony Juniper. His latest book ‘What’s Really Happening to our Planet’ charts the dramatic explosion of human population and consumption and its impact on climate change and our planet. With insights from globally respected scientists, states people and cultural leaders and thinkers, the book examines how we can begin to reverse the damage we have caused.
Tony will be giving an illustrated talk about his new book at 2.30pm, Sunday August 7th, Memorial Hall, Pateley Bridge.
Here is his interview:
1. What is your earliest memory of the natural world?
Ancient apple trees in the garden of an old house, with nettles beneath covered in black caterpillars.
2. Did you always want to be a writer?
No. I wasn’t even entered for English ‘O’ Level. My passion was for nature and most of the books I looked at were factual ones about wildlife, ecology and fishing.
3. Who were the authors or who inspired you to start writing?
One book that did inspire writing was ‘Swifts in a Tower’ by David Lack, charting the lives of these amazing migratory birds living in the tower of Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. I grew up in that city and often cycled past that tower, I saw the swifts and was inspired by how they had created the most wonderful story, captured by Lack, whom although a top scientist had written a book that everyone could read. I liked that.
4. Do you have a favourite place or landscape?
Not really. One of the most wonderful things about the natural world is its immense diversity, including species, habitats and landscapes. I love it all, from fens to tropical rainforests and from wild ocean-scapes to remote mountains.
5. How do you feel about the state of the natural world today?
Sometimes my blood runs cold when I look at some of the data we have to hand. In my latest book, ‘What’s Really Happening to our Planet?’, I think the starkest estimate is how 10,000 years ago 99 per cent of land vertebrate biomass on Earth (basically the weight of land animals) was comprised of wild animals. Today, 96 per cent in comprised of people and their domesticated animals. That really sums up the extent to which one species (us) now dominates the Earth. This doesn’t mean we need to destroy it, however. We can keep the natural world functioning, and indeed if we want to stay here that is a necessity rather than an option.
6. Do you have a motto?
‘Forward to Final Victory’
7. What are you working on at the moment?
A book about the fight to save the tropical rainforests. I started working on that back in the late 1980s and am still involved in different ways. There is a lot to be said about that subject, including some quite encouraging developments during recent years.
8. What are your three ‘desert island’ reads and why?
1. The definitive work covering the island’s birds.
2. The comprehensive work to the islands marine wildlife.
3. The guide to the islands plants. All of these would be useful for the whole time I was there, whereas any novel would after a few readings become rather dull. If I had a pen and notebook I’d do the one about the insects myself.