Paul Evans nature writer,
Guardian Country Diarist, playwright, poet,
broadcaster & environmental journalist
Highlights of 2016
Behind the dismal news of atrocities, famines, politics, disasters and obituaries that characterised the joyless history of 2016, Nature offered more than solace. Through these few works I have attempted, in a hopelessly inadequate way, acts of resistance against life-denying forces ranged against Nature and the human spirit. My grateful thanks to all who read them and gave me encouragement and support.
Where the wild things are
"The latest crop of nature-writing books, and wildness is all. There’s a quiet ferocity running through these three very different volumes, powerful yet subtle, refreshingly practical and quotidian – and leagues away from the teen fantasies of George Monbiot with his schemes for “rewilding”. So we have John Lewis-Stempel retro-farming a field of wheat, John Wright rootling about in hedges, and Paul Evans in rapt communion with the fairy folk .....
....Thus the landscape does not need to be made strange by wheezes to reintroduce charismatic species; it is already magical for those who have the eyes (and imagination) to see. Evans’s book is a manifesto for fey living rather than rewilding: “I am fascinated by the idea that some places frighten us for reasons we don’t understand; places that feel weird, eerie, sinister, the eldritch places (from the Old English for a strange country, the Otherworld)”. Evans wants us to become more experienced in immaterial encounters, alive to the “eco-gothic” rather than being victims of ecophobia – the anxiety that “Nature bites back” despite human attempts to control and harness it through managing (and denuding) the environment ".
Smart plants learn new habits
A new study led by The University of Western Australia has demonstrated for the first time that plants can learn about their environment by making links between events, an ability thought to be exclusive to animals.
Arboreal by Little Toller Books
"There was a public outcry in 2010 when the government announced plans to sell off much of the public forest, consisting of some 635,000 acres including royal forests and ancient woods. Such a widespread and emotional response led to a U-turn, it also tells us just how important woodlands still are, even if they are no longer part of our everyday life. No other landscape matches the variety of life in a woodland; both above and below ground. They are given names on our maps, shape our language, feed our imagination. Two centuries ago, when woodlands were still at the heart of the parish economy, trees, hedgerows, spinneys and copses paid their way providing fuel, thatch, bedding, timber, woodland pasture for pigs, medicine from bark and wild harvests of nuts and berries. This role declined in the 19th and 20th centuries and the arrival of cheap coal, imported timber, the felling and grubbing up of whole ancient woodlands, and the policy to plant conifer plantations meant that the small deciduous woodlands either disappeared or became irrelevant to local industry and communities. This landmark anthology reminds us why woodlands matter and combines essays from a variety of important contributors . These include Ali Smith, Simon Leatherdale, Alan Garner, Alec Finlay, Simon Armitage, David Nash, Fiona Stafford, Sara Maitland, George Peterkin, Helen Dunmore, Jen Hadfield, Philip Marsden, Nina Lyon, Paul Kingsnorth, Paul Evans, Richard Skelton, Tobias Hill, Germaine Greer, Fiona Reynolds, Jay Griffiths, Richard Mabey, Pater Marren, Philip Hoare, Deborah Wilenski, Jim Crumley, Rob Penn, Neil Sinden, Piers Taylor, Madeleine Bunting, Kathleen Jamie, William Boyd, Gabriel Hammery, Tim Dee, Evie Wyld, Will Ashon, Sean Lysaght, Robin Walter"
Feathered Dinosaur Lost Its Tail in Sticky Trap 99 Million Years Ago
About 99 million years ago, an unlucky juvenile dinosaur wandered into a sticky trap and sacrificed a chunk of its tail.
That dinosaur's loss was paleontology's gain. Millions of years later, the truncated tail hangs suspended in a chunk of amber, its feathers and a hint of pigment in preserved soft tissue still visible.
Researchers described the remarkable specimen in a new study, identifying it as the first evidence in amber from a nonavian theropod — a meat-eating and feathered dinosaur that doesn't belong to the lineage that led to modern birds. The remarkable preservation provides a snapshot of dinosaur biology that can't be retrieved from the fossil record, and offers a rare glimpse of feather structures in extinct dinosaurs, which could help scientists better understand how feathers evolved across the dinosaur family tree.