Granta has drifted over the past few issues to this one so it was a welcome return to form.
This issue was a sideways step from the usual publication with a theme in that it had a guest editor – Isabella Tree – and that every contribution stuck firmly to that theme (again, a departure from the standard format). As a result of this the contributions are very tightly defined.
The theme for issue 153 is Second Nature: the environment and climate change crisis. There is a smattering of too much science in some of the contributions and Rebecca Priestly in Prepare to be Kind struggles to go beyond a diary of life under lockdown. And the fictional extracts – Jessie Greengrass and Caolinn Hughes came across as there because fiction was needed.
Some of the challenges covered are typical ones such as disappearing coral in Shifting Baselines. Callum Roberts brings depth and intimate experience to how coral is suffering.
Indigenous populations are given their own voice with Sheila Watt- Cloutier on Inuits in Canada (an illuminating story of colonial misrule) and Rod Mason of Ngarigo people in Australia, and the Sapara nation in the Amazon rainforest with Manari Ushigua – all educational about the relationship of humans within nature and the land.
Adam Weavers’ account of salmon and fishing industires in the UK West Country and Ireland is a slight story which documents how traditional industries are dying out. A grim message that runs throughout the edition. I enjoyed Tim Flannery’s Dragon’s if only because I have love of the creatures.
A welcome surprise for me was the contributions on vultures by Samanth Subramanian – turned on its heads my understanding of vultures and their relationship to religion, ad wolves by Cal Flyn – a sympathetic account of their important relationship to the wild.