THE art of nature writing is currently enjoying a thrilling and rewarding renaissance.

This week sees the publication of Gifts of Gravity and Light, pitched as a ‘A Nature Almanac for the 21st Century’.

With a foreword by Bernardine Evaristo, the book takes the reader on a tour of the seasons, from spring in East London to the sun drunk days of a Jamaican childhood, sea otters in summer to the icy stillness of winter in the Cairngorms. It’s an exciting and fresh collection of voices, among them Jackie Kay, Jay Griffiths and Testament.

Last week, I spent a fascinating hour in the company of the book’s two editors, Anita Roy and Pippa Marland, whose own pieces neatly ground the collection around the spring and autumn equinoxes.

Their passion for the subject of nature writing was clear, and their understanding of how it has changed was astute.

Current discussions of what constitutes nature writing first began a decade ago. The argument then was whether there was a place for politics or if nature writing should be the preserve of the personal and of private experience.

‘I think that those discussions are still there,’ Pippa explained, ‘but there’s been this wonderful relaxation and expansion of the genre in the last couple of years.’

The urgency of the climate change situation has become increasingly difficult for nature writers to ignore: one only has to look at the changing broadcasts of Sir David Attenborough in recent years to get a sense of that.

Scientists now describe the era we live in as the Anthropocene, the first time in global history when human activity itself is changing the climate of the planet. Given this role in affecting nature, it would be strange for nature writing not to question our own behaviours.

At the same time, nature writing has also blossomed through the growing array of new voices attracted to the genre.

Pippa and Anita talked about the ‘monoculture’ of 20th century nature writing, which very much became the preserve of the leisured white male.

Over the last decade, this orthodoxy has been overturned by a growing ‘bibliodiversity’ of firstly, female practitioners, and more recently an increasing number of nature writers from a BAME background.

Anita described the significance of breakthrough books such as Anita Sethi’s I Belong Here and Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s The Grassling.

Crucial, too, have been platforms such as the Willowherb Review, a thriving digital space for BAME nature writers.

As Anita argues, ‘this is a very wide and diverse place, this thing called nature writing, and there is room for everyone.’

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