cover image Common Ground: Encounters with Nature on the Edges of Life

Common Ground: Encounters with Nature on the Edges of Life

Rob Cowen. Univ. of Chicago, $29 (352p) ISBN 978-0-226-42426-2

In beautifully written and evocative prose, English nature writer Cowen explores the relationship between humans and nature, making it abundantly clear that nature is where you find it. His subject is ostensibly a single square mile of waste land on the edge of Bilton, a small town in northern England. Cowen writes, “The no man’s land between town and country; this was the edge of things.” He masterfully describes this place of beauty and garbage, a place filled with wildlife and the smells and sounds of the encroaching town. But he does much more than superbly describe the transformation of the seasons over the course of a single year. In discussing the changes the land and its inhabitants have experienced over hundreds of generations, Cowen brings the lives of individuals into sharp and poignant focus. Whether he is creating the story of a red fox eking out a living, a deer hunt two centuries ago, or a vagrant living on the land, he captivatingly blends science, politics, and poetry, passionately explaining “the need for a new global ecological consciousness to the bored commuters parking their Rovers and Volvos at the railway station.” Cowen shows how to find joy and awe in the quotidian while cogitating on the world we will leave the next generation. (Oct.)