Irreplaceable: Powerful hymn to humanity engaging with nature

Book review: Hoffman celebrates exquisite natural variety of ‘eco-cultural landscapes’

Hoffman he returns again and again to places in Britain where motley coalitions of locally-rooted individuals, many of them not environmentalists in any stereotypical sense, are fighting defiantly against hubristic plans for yet more infrastructural development. Photograph: Getty

Hoffman he returns again and again to places in Britain where motley coalitions of locally-rooted individuals, many of them not environmentalists in any stereotypical sense, are fighting defiantly against hubristic plans for yet more infrastructural development. Photograph: Getty

There is perhaps no more dangerous idea abroad in our times than the notion that a solid border – a wall, if you like – can be raised between human culture and the natural world.

It’s a wall that has, ironically enough, sometimes been erected by those most passionate about conservation. Intellectual exiles from industrialised societies have fantasised about “pristine wilderness” unsullied by humankind. This idea became manifest in the American national park model: expel the indigenous inhabitants from a remote place, and designate the area inside the fence as “nature”.

This radical human-nature separation puts our very survival at risk. As Julian Hoffman says in this remarkable, illuminating book, our dominant consumer capitalist culture is built on a related fantasy: “the quixotic notion that we can live outside the planet’s natural systems and verifiable parameters”.

The Irish Times
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