Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.
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Matt Ridley's latest book Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19, co-authored with scientist Alina Chan from Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute, is now available in the United States, in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.
My article for The Critic:
When I was ten years old, in 1968, my parents took me and two of my sisters on a safari through Kenya and Tanzania. Having lived there when they first married in the 1950s, they wanted us to see the wildlife before it was all gone. Newly independent Kenya, its population booming, would soon have few lions or elephants left. This was not intended as a political criticism, it was just that there was unlikely to be room for such luxuries in a poor nation striving to feed its expanding population.
The first of the game reserves we visited, the Masai Mara, with its abundant big game and beautiful birds, left an indelible impression on my young mind. It helped turn me into a bird watcher and then a biologist. This winter, 53 years later, I returned to the Mara for the first time. To say that my parents’ pessimism was unjustified is to understate the matter — vastly. The grassy plains either side of the Mara river are as rich as ever in zebra, topi, eland, wildebeest, waterbuck, gazelles, impala, giraffe and buffalo.
My article for The Critic:Near Fukushima, ten years after the nuclear accident that followed the tsunami, wild boar have colonised the suburbs. Near Chernobyl, bison and wolves wander abandoned streets. There is no doubt that if humans vanished, indigenous wildlife would return in abundance, minus the mammoths and sabre-tooths that our ancestors extinguished.
Rewilding is all the rage, and it is coming soon to a hillside near you. But what form should it take and how should it be done? In practice, rewilding began quite a long time ago. A recent study found that, contrary to what most people believe, the world now has more trees than 35 years ago and much of the regrowth is natural regeneration: Europe alone has gained an area of tree cover greater than France.
New England was once wall-to-wall fields; now it is a deer-filled forest pockmarked with cities and freeways. Wolves and beavers are spreading in Europe; cougars and bears in North America. There are 80,000 humpback whales today: there were 5,000 in the 1960s. Where I used to fish in the river Tyne as a boy, otters, buzzards and salmon were vanishingly rare; now they are common.
Update: My House of Lords Speech on Genome Editing from 4th March
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