David Elias’ debut book Shaping The Wild is a beautiful and insightful read. Focused on Craig-Y-Tân, a Gwynedd hill farm, retired conversationist Elias discusses its EU-funded efforts to integrate into the local ecosystems. It explores the history of agricultural and ecological policy via an exploration of rural north Wales, with rich and evocative descriptions of the landscape and the wildlife (or lack thereof) within it.
Moreso than a report on the specific practices and ‘wisdom’ that the farm has to offer, the book is a series of meditations on the complex pull between agriculture and conservation, and the somewhat unique place that Craig-Y-Tân holds within that landscape. In many ways, its operation is not exemplary, and I think that’s actually what makes the book so interesting: there is no real possibility of succeeding when two different groups of people have two such complex needs to fill. On the one hand, the need to feed the public and sustain a business; on the other, the need to preserve the landscape and restore ecological balance when no one alive today can remember what ecological balance actually looks like.
A must-read for anyone interested in how governments, businesses and individuals can alter the landscape, Shaping The Wild is a realistic reflection of the difficult problem of ecological protection. At its core, it asks a fundamental question: how do you do the right thing, when you don’t know what the right thing is?
Shaping The Wild, David Elias (University Of Wales Press)
Price: £18.99. Info: here
words HARI BERROW
Want more books?
The latest reviews, interviews, features and more, from Wales and beyond.