Being out and about in the countryside has lots of positives; the views, the fresh air, the sound of bird song and restores our deep connections with the natural world. In The Moth Snowstorm he argues that we cannot be fully human if we lose those connections; for McCarthy the greatest gift that nature gives him is joy. The connections that link us to the outdoors run far back in our DNA, surveys have demonstrated that people subconsciously prefer the open savannah landscapes above all others and that patients in hospital heal faster when they have a view of the natural world through a window. Using various examples, he provides evidence of the damage that we are causing to the animals and landscapes of this world in the pursuit of profit and control. He describes pointless civil engineering projects in the South China Sea, blocking mud flats from the sea and stopping millions of birds having a place to feed on their long migratory routes.
McCarthy takes time to describe those pivotal points that changed his life. These moments of joy are deftly woven with the pain that the family suffered when he was young when his mother was admitted to an asylum and as his father was away at sea a lot, they were moved to his uncle and aunts house. His brother was traumatised by it; Michael sought solace in bird watching to avoid thinking of the pain and the loss. The family were reunited, though the relationships were fragile and strained. It took years for him to understand his exact feelings properly.
It is a beautifully written book by an accomplished author. You are not left in any doubt by his fury at the destruction of habitats and places that creatures are totally dependent on them for survival. Whilst we still have some fantastic things left to see, he remind us of what we have lost. The title of the book is a recollection of the masses of moths that people remember driving through a few decades ago that were attracted to the headlights. The decline of some species has reached 90% and they are the lucky ones; others are no longer with us. He is critical of some of the attempts to reverse the trends, explaining why he thinks that they don’t go far enough.
Frankly it is a worrying book; if we mess this up we don’t have another planet. 4.5 stars