Diary of a young naturalist | Dara McAnulty

Oh Dara, you sweet, lovely boy. How I loved your enthusiasm for lying on the ground watching beetles and ants, your amazement at the colours of bluebottles, your sense of wonder at trees, your adoration of birds, and your profound sense of wanting to protect this whole incredible interdependent web. And through this gorgeous book, I’m sure you will have inspired many others, young and old, to value the nature that’s around them in, even the least wild places.

I got involved with animal rights 40 years ago, in my teens. I went vegetarian then and have been vegan for many years since, because I can’t be part of making animals suffer. But after reading this book, if there’s a fly or moth or spider in the room, I find myself really examining and appreciating its form and beauty before I put it out. I look at every ‘weed’ and wild plant growing through cracks in the pavement differently now, wondering how it got there, and how it’s part of the whole. It’s changed my perspective from ‘Harming the natural world is wrong’ to ‘Wow the natural stuff around us is fucking amazing.’ Dara expresses it far more eloquently though.

His love of nature and wildlife is inseparable from his autism – hence the need to catalogue and investigate in detail and hold forth – which I also found totally relatable. He talks about his autistic traits a lot, so it’s a great read for anyone who wants to understand the spectrum better. And for those who are feeling powerless about climate change and destruction of habitats and the impact on wildlife – it shows how one person really can make a difference. That person could be you. Me, even. If Dara can, we can.