Sunday book review – Irreplaceable by Julian Hoffman

This is a book about saving wild places across the world. In its chapters we travel from a couple of places in Kent to Glasgow, the Gwent Levels, the Fens of Cambridgeshire but also the mid West of the USA, forests in India and the seas of Indonesia.

Each of the chapters deal with a problem, a place and the people trying to remove the problem from the place. There are some inspiring stories here.

There are two places where, topically and interestingly, a certain Boris Johnson crops up. I did wonder whether it was really possible that even Boris really said ‘…it’s tragic we have protest groups talking about ‘this ancient woodland’ when actually there’s no tree in this country that’s more than 200 years old.’ but it appears that he really, really did, and I will always be grateful to this author for pointing that out to me and to the world. I knew already that Boris had continued to push his idea of a third London airport in or next to the North Kent Marshes while he was London Mayor even after the experts had pointed out how daft an idea it really was. Boris would be a danger to the environment (but that doesn’t mean that Jeremy Hunt would not be an equal danger, of course).

Despite this being a subject close to my own heart, and some of the places being close to my heart too, and even some of the people in these pages being ones I have worked with and admired, I didn’t warm to the book. Sorry! The books lacks a narrative grip, it feels like a series of disjointed case studies to me, and even within some chapters I couldn’t get a hold of what was meant to be the message. Judging from the quotes on the back cover of this book I am missing something – maybe I am, but I certainly did miss it.

Do you like the dust jacket? Nor did I.

Irreplaceable : the fight to save our wild places by Julian Hoffman is published by Hamish Hamilton.

Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery is published by Thames and Hudson – for reviews see here.

Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.

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7 Replies to “Sunday book review – Irreplaceable by Julian Hoffman”

  1. Funny how the Total Politics page that BorisWatch draws the quote from has disappeared. I wonder why? And does he not realise that even if none of the individual trees were more than 200 years old (and most of them aren't of course), *that's not the point* ! The combination of wild nature is unique, as is the history of the place, embedded in the trees and other creatures. Moron.
    (And 'total politics', what a hideous idea. How about 'as little politics as we can possibly get away with'?).

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  2. What makes it worse is that the probability is he knew the truth - his sister Rachel was a leading campaigner against the forest sell off, and was probably one of the leaders of the 100 signature letter of the 'great and the good' including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Judie Dench. Makes you wonder what goes on in this very peculiar family - especially as Dad Stanley thought up the EU Habitats Directive which has to be amongst the all time greats of environmental legislation.

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  3. I recall Boris being ridiculed for claiming you could just replace ancient woodland by planting more trees although I never saw the original quote. I think it was Ian Hislop that years ago said Boris's affable, bumbling oaf persona was a false, calculated act - a remark which I found chilling as if someone had opened a cellar door to let you see a hidden corpse. In any event it's enormously depressing he's the son of Stanley Johnson.

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    1. Les - Owen Paterson said something similar. I'm pretty sure that we don't need a DNA test to establish that Stanley is the sire of Boris.

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  4. Stanley and Boris’s girlfriend were at the London anti-whaling march against Japan in January. Shame that Boris doesn’t seem to share the same ethos. We need to introduce him to the Fortingall Yew - that should stop his nonsense.

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