Sunday book review – Silent Earth by Dave Goulson

This is a very good book by an expert. For those of us whose knowledge and understanding of the natural world is highly slanted towards feathered vertebrates this book helps to put things in perspective. The argument is that we need insects, and if we don’t look after them there will be consequences for us. Even the wasp that stung me earlier this week is my friend really. It’s good to see those arguments set out by a professional so that one can think about them and evaluate them. I’m still thinking and evaluating but at least this book has got me going on that route.

If we need to look after insects, or even if we simply want to (whether we need to or not), there are pretty big consequences for the way we live, particularly for agriculture and those issues are laid out in some detail here, which is good to see.

And the ‘Somebody ought to do something about it’ issue is dealt with at the end of this book with a thorough agenda for action for governments, both local and national, farmers, gardeners, consumers and citizens.

That’s the shape of the book and it is well written and very well-referenced (as one would expect). I enjoyed several passages and the explanation for how, or why, one group of scientists might say one thing, and another say a rather contradictory thing (see pages 127-131 particularly, for this) was very good and should be kept in mnd whenever you hear two apparently opposing views and wonder what the truth is. If it were easy to know who is telling the truth, then people wouldn’t lie, and organisations wouldn’t pay spin doctors to mangle the truth almost out of shape for their own ends. Why don’t they teach this in school? Well, maybe they teach it in Sussex University where Prof Goulson is based.

For these book reviews I rely to a large extent on publishers sending me books. They know that I will review them whenever I can. That means that I am sent quite a lot of books that I might have bought anyway, and some that I certainly wouldn’t. Some of each category are wonderful and some of each categoty are less wonderful. But I bought this book because I wanted to read it, and I was right to want to read it, and I think that many of you will want to read it too. And if you do, then I can’t see that you will be disappointed. This book goes into my shortlist of books of 2021.

The cover? It’s OK, quite nice, but doesn’t turn me on and what is it supposed to tell me about the book? I’d give it 6/10. The title recalls Rachel Carson’s famous book of course, but the subtitle is the opposite of the title in some ways. Titles are difficult, but the subtitle gives a clear idea of what you get told about in this fine book.

Silent Earth: averting the insect apocalypse by Dave Goulson is published by Jonathan Cape.


4 Replies to “Sunday book review – Silent Earth by Dave Goulson”

  1. Sounds like a book I could really get into.
    (I like wasps. The sorts wot sting and the parasitic/ovipositor sorts.)

  2. I like the cover. I don’t know if it was the intention or not but I see it as suggesting the exuberant diversity of insect forms whilst at the same time the spiral pattern suggests that all those species are circling a metaphorical plug-hole.

    I haven’t read this book yet but have greatly enjoyed the other books Goulson has written and so am looking forward to this one. Your review suggests I won’t be disappointed.

  3. I’ve turned into a closet Professor G fanboi. I’ve read all his books, joined the club and bought the T-shirt. Well two t-shirts actually. His writing is superb though and I’ve enjoyed every book while learning a lot about insects. This time I tried the audiobook which is narrated by the man himself. As you can imagine for someone who lectures for a living, he communicates very well and delivers the book with his usual dry wit. This isn’t as positive as his previous books and I think people should be prepared to be quite disheartened after they finish reading it. The message is essential though and I think it will do a lot of good if enough people read it. As Mark says the data provided is balanced and well referenced, and delivered in a way that doesn’t sensationalise or patronise. I think people would have to be pretty stubborn to ignore the issues when they’re laid out this clearly and factually. Please do read it and please follow up on some of the recommended actions if you can.

  4. It i son my ‘wanted’ list so not-so-subtle hints have been dropped what with Christmas just a few weeks away now. I have read all of Mr Goulson’s previous books and have found each one enjoyable and informative, so I am hoping that this one follows suit.
    I like the cover and took it to mean that without all forms of insect life that live on this planet of ours along with us then it would be a ‘Silent Earth’.
    (Personally, I have no problems with wasps whatsoever; I am the only one in my family who thinks this so I am the enforcer getting them out of the house; alive of course).

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