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Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape

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An abandoned botanical garden in Tanzania offers the chance to talk invasive species and make several sharp observations.

In this time, nature has been left to work unfettered – offering a glimpse of how abandoned land, even the most polluted regions of the world, might offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery. This is a book about abandoned places: ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands – and what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place. Previously she has been a reporter for both The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph, and a contributing editor at The Week magazine. Surprisingly rich in ecological and biological detail, Islands of Abandonment is a poetic and spellbinding travelogue.

Flyn wields the pen of a poet but never loses sight of the importance of getting the biological details right.

Thus, she talks of ecological succession in abandoned landscapes when plants recolonize, including both human wastelands and sites of natural disasters. From Tanzanian mountains to the volcanic Caribbean, the forbidden areas of France to the mining regions of Scotland, Flyn brings together some of the most desolate, eerie, ravaged and polluted areas in the world - and shows how, against all odds, they offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery. A vivid reflection on the “post-human landscape”, Islands of Abandonment finds its author embarking on a series of bold expeditions to examine the marks left on our land after humans have retreated.We pay respect by giving voice to social justice, acknowledging our shared history and valuing the cultures of First Nations. In Detroit, once America's fourth-largest city, entire streets of houses are falling in on themselves, looters slipping through otherwise silent neighbourhoods. I was very pleased (though I am, of course, biased) to see her discuss evolution this much—and get it right. Whether due to war or disaster, disease or economic decay, each extraordinary place visited in this book has been left to its own devices for decades.

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