Landfill by Tim Dee
Landfill is the new ground-breaking, genre-bending book by Tim Dee which confronts our waste-making species. From the acclaimed author of Four Fields (2013) and The Running Sky (2010), comes this original and compelling story of how we have worked the rest of the living world, learned about it, named and catalogued it, and have then colonised it, planted it or filled it with our junk. Landfill is a nature book for our times. Without nostalgia or eulogy, it kicks beneath the littered surface of things to discover stranger truths.
The unlikely stars of Landfill are gulls. No, not seagulls. Gulls. Which, over the past hundred years, have been brought ashore by modernity. They have lived in our slipstream following trawlers, ploughs, now garbage trucks. In this way they are more our contemporaries than most birds, living their wild lives amongst us in towns and cities. In many ways they live as we do, walking the built-up world and grabbing a bite where they can.
Yet this disturbs us. We’ve started fearing gulls for getting good at being among us and begun to hate them for it, chasing them away – unsuccessfully – with poison, plastic decoys, metal spikes or hawks. We see them as scavengers, not entrepreneurs. They are ocean-going aliens, not refugees. They steal our chips and kill our Chihuahuas. They are too big for the world they have entered. In part, we are the reason why gulls have come closer towards us. Our story is theirs too. And while most other birds have gone in the opposite direction, hiding away from us, some vanishing forever, gulls continue to tell us how the wild can share our world.
There is an unusual, unfettered joy that comes of reading Landfill, as it tells the story of how gulls have made their way among us. Tim Dee’s prose is exquisite, and the passionate observers who accompany him on the journey are extraordinary. Yet perhaps the most powerful thing about Landfill is the difficult questions that are asked of where we are going in the anthropocene, and the author’s honest, funny and intelligent grappling to understand the mad way we live and how other animals cope with us as rowdy, messy neighbours.