The Secret Wisdom of Nature focuses on the relationships between the flora and fauna of nature, things like how some plants, insects, birds, or animals interact with other plants, insects, or animals to survive, thrive, and multiply. Many of the relationships are fascinating and this book is full of “I didn’t know that” and “Hmm, interesting” information. This is the third in a series of books that began with “The Secret Wisdom of Trees.”
Did you know trees affect the weather and change the rotation of the sun? Did you know they work in concert to react to threats and changes in their environment? Did you know the Brits love of feeding birds is changing the beak and wing shape of some birds? Did you know that for trees cannot “see” green so the daylight we see in the forest is dark for them? That is the kind of strange and surprising things you will learn reading this book.
The Secret Wisdomof Nature is fascinating and informative. It is also maddening at times. Wohlleben anthropomorphized far too much. He attributes intention to biochemical responses and biologically-programmed instincts and behaviors. His nature is full of emotion. Of course, animals experience emotion. Anyone who saw the daily stories of J35 mourning her dead calf and her fellow Southern Resident orcas helped keep her and her calf afloat for seventeen days cannot deny the grief and emotional depths of animals. Wohllenben goes further than that, though, too far for me, describing plants and animals as emotional beings.
I cringed sometimes when he described evolutionary processes, not necessarily because they were not happening but because he made them seem purposeful. His description of blackcap warbler evolution, for example, seems problematic. Some of them have taken to flying to England where people feed them rather than Spain where they eat berries and fruit, including olives. Natural selection has resulted in those with rounder wings and longer beaks doing better. But the way the author talks about it is far too intentional, not the random mutations turning out to be useful. There is an element of design in how he describes nature and that sets my teeth on edge.
He also seems humanity as something apart from nature. He addresses this directly, writing we became separate from nature when we began farming. This is increasingly rejected by scientists and it’s a good thing, helping to understand the interdependence of humanity with the rest of the world. Still, I think many people will enjoy the book for all the “did you know” moments and his easy writing style. I can see people who see the world as designed really liking it.