A beautiful, lyrical exploration of the places where nature is flourishing in our absence
Some of the only truly feral cattle in the world wander a long-abandoned island off the northernmost tip of Scotland. A variety of wildlife not seen in many lifetimes has rebounded on the irradiated grounds of Chernobyl. A lush forest supports thousands of species that are extinct or endangered everywhere else on earth in the Korean peninsula's narrow DMZ.
Cal Flyn, an investigative journalist, exceptional nature writer, and promising new literary voice visits the eeriest and most desolate places on Earth that due to war, disaster, disease, or economic decay, have been abandoned by humans. What she finds every time is an "island" of teeming new life: nature has rushed in to fill the void faster and more thoroughly than even the most hopeful projections of scientists.
Islands of Abandonment is a tour through these new ecosystems, in all their glory, as sites of unexpected environmental significance, where the natural world has reasserted its wild power and promise. And while it doesn't let us off the hook for addressing environmental degradation and climate change, it is a case that hope is far from lost, and it is ultimately a story of redemption: the most polluted spots on Earth can be rehabilitated through ecological processes and, in fact, they already are.
About the Author
Cal Flyn is an author, an investigative journalist, and a MacDowell fellow from the Highlands of Scotland. She has worked as a reporter for The Sunday Times and The Telegraph and has contributed to publications including Granta, The Guardian, The Times, The Observer, and others. Her first book, Thicker Than Water, was one of The Times's best books of 2016.
“[A] riveting collection of essays…. Through lush and poetic language, [Flyn] captures the vital forces at work in the natural world. This is nature writing at its most potent.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred) “Brave, unflinching, and keenly observant….Flyn writes with the soul of a poet and the eye of a painter…” —Booklist (Starred)
“Bracing, eye-opening, comprehensive, and essential, Islands of Abandonment is an energizing and important work. It affirms that nature is resilient, given half a chance, and should motivate all of us to try harder, even for the habitats that seem broken or hopeless.” --Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author of Annihilation and the Southern Reach Trilogy
"[Flyn] has an eye for the fresh facet and telling detail, delivered with a crisp lyricism…Islands of Abandonment is ultimately far more than a factual survey of liminal geographies, although it’s a well-researched one. And it is more than an eloquent foray into landscapes of the mind. By mapping the ecological recovery now sweeping the globe, it celebrates the power of benign neglect in enabling nature to do the journeywork of regeneration…” —Medium
“There have been trailblazing nonfiction titles on rewilding: most famously, Isabella Tree’s Wilding, George Monbiot’s Feral and, more recently, Cal Flyn’s Islands of Abandonment.” —LitHub
"Full of surprise and hope, spiced with horror. A vivid guide to the strange and resilient life of seemingly ruined and waste spaces, one that calls us to new understandings of nature and beauty." --David George Haskell, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Forest Unseen and The Songs of Trees
"A beautifully crafted tale of shame, hope, and redemption, lyrical, rigorous, and thrilling." --Charles Foster, New York Times Bestselling author of Being a Beast
"At times desperately sad and in others desperately hopeful – but nowhere losing faith in this beautiful world. Perfect reading for the crisis.” --Will McCallum, author of How to Give Up Plastic and head of Oceans Greenpeace UK
“fascinating and brain-energising...full of detail and colour” --The Times of London
“Scintillating…Flyn’s research is meticulous, but what makes the book so extraordinary is the originality of her thought…she scatters observations like seeds, and you find them taking root in your brain.” --The Herald Magazine
“an exhilarating look at some of the world’s most dangerous places – and a meditation on nature’s power to endure” --The Telegraph UK
“[a] subtle and profound book..that it is also a quiet exploration of aesthetics in the natural world, of how we conceive beauty and value” --The New Humanist
“brave, thorough…and a plea for radical revisioning of what we mean by “nature” and “wild”.” --The New Statesman
"Filled with understanding and adventure, Islands of Abandonment is written with a beautiful attention to detail and a generous and imaginative frame of mind. The wonderful and surprising thing is how much reassurance and sense of possibility comes out of it at every turn. In that way, it is the most precious hymn to resilience." --Adam Nicolson, author of Sea Room