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Wild Ireland We're at a point in history where we must improve our relationship with nature

Carsten Krieger’s book, Wild Ireland is nominated in the An Post Irish Book Awards 2023 in TheJournal.ie’s sponsored category, Best Irish Published Book of the Year.

I HAVE BEEN mesmerised by the natural world since my early childhood in Germany. I remember sitting by the kitchen window on cold winter mornings, watching the birds at the feeder outside, and chasing butterflies around the garden on hot summer evenings.

Part of this early interest was simple childish curiosity: Why is the goldfinch so colourful? Why does the caterpillar turn into a butterfly? How does the bee get the nectar out of the flower (and how does the nectar get into the flower in the first place)?

Fox, County Clare Fox, County Clare Wild Ireland - Carsten Krieger Wild Ireland - Carsten Krieger

Another part was the fact that I felt very comfortable in the company of wild things … more comfortable than with most humans. A few years later, an obsession with photography came into the mix, and soon after it was clear to me that I wanted to spend my life as a photographer and work in nature conservation.

WildIreland Carsten Krieger Carsten Krieger

But life had other plans. I was a lazy student and pretty much flunked all subjects apart from biology. After leaving school, I took some detours and ended up training and subsequently working as a paediatric nurse.

Conservation calling

Some dreams, however, die hard, and after a decade in nursing, I moved to Ireland for a new beginning and to pursue photography and nature conservation as a career.

One of the Shannon Dolphins, Shannon Estuary One of the Shannon Dolphins, Shannon Estuary. Wild Ireland - Carsten Krieger Wild Ireland - Carsten Krieger

By pure chance, I ended up living on the Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare, which turned out to be a treasure chest for someone like me: bottlenose dolphins, seabird colonies and rocky shores teeming with all kinds of wildlife were on my doorstep, waiting to be explored.

On top of that, the Burren – a landscape I started exploring on my holiday trips to Ireland and had very much fallen in love with – was only a short drive away.

Unfortunately for me, it was difficult to make a living from nature and conservation photography alone, so I started shooting pretty landscapes and happy people for the tourism sector. This became my day job, and I worked mostly as a volunteer for various conservation groups on the side.

But a change was coming. The terms ‘climate change’, ‘biodiversity loss’ and ‘mass extinction’ entered the public domain, and more and more people started to show an interest in the natural world and the threats it is facing.

David Attenborough summed it up when he said, ‘We moved from being a part of nature to being apart from nature.’ We are now at a point in history where we must re-evaluate and change our perception and relationship with the natural world. We are beginning to understand that we are merely one part of a vast global network that connects all living beings – and that, within this network, actions (our actions) have consequences.

carstenkrieger Carsten Krieger Carsten Krieger

This new understanding of our place in the structure of the planet should begin at home, on the small grassy patch outside our front door, the pasture down the road, the stretch of coast or the forest where we take our daily walks. In these places, we can experience the workings of the natural network at first hand.

Beach and oak forest at Old Head, County Mayo with Caption Beach and oak forest at Old Head, County Mayo Wild Ireland - Carsten Krieger Wild Ireland - Carsten Krieger

Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry engineer, wrote in 1968, ‘In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught’, and his words are truer now than ever. I strongly believe that education is the key to bringing us back to a state where we are a part of nature again.’  

Carsten Krieger is a nature, landscape and documentary photographer. He is also an author and his new book, Wild Ireland is nominated in the An Post Irish Book Awards 2023 in TheJournal.ie’s sponsored category, Best Irish Published Book of the Year. Find the full list of nominees and more information at the awards’ websiteYou can vote here anpostirishbookawards.ie/vote.

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