Thursday 4 January 2024

Ultra Wild

Ultrawild by Steve Mushin (Allen & Unwin) HB RRP $34.99 ISBN: 9781760292812

Reviewed by Kellie Nissen

Scientists and engineers since forever have been known for some wacky, mind-bending ideas … many of which actually worked.

Enter Steve Mushin – an industrial designer and inventor who embraces the power of creative thinking to the extreme of absurdity in order to drill back down to find actionable solutions. His focus in Ultrawild? Climate change.

Climate change is the issue on everyone’s minds – and in our faces! Our bookstores contain an abundance of heartfelt, awareness-raising books but Ultrawild is not what I expected it to be when I saw the theme. Far from it, in fact.

Author and illustrator Steve Mushin has put together ‘an audacious plan to rewild every city on earth’. At first glance, we may wonder if his suggestions for a ‘compost-firing cannons’ and ‘armoured luxury hotels made from lampposts for native animals’ are the stuff of fantasy, or even a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun. But no. As Mushin notes:

Often the MOST BONKERS thought experiments have sparked the greatest BREAKTHROUGHS and to make leaps of innovation WE HAVE TO explore ideas that initially seem preposterous.

So, that compost-firing cannon he talks about – that could be a way to replicate the soil rejuvenation work of our extinct megafauna. Or perhaps you might be intrigued to discover how we could harness chickens to keep us safe from savage animals – they are, after all, descendants of the T-rex!

Ultimately, Mushin explains, our aim should be to transform every city on Earth into a jungle, suck 100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and crush climate change.

Ultrawild is packed full of scientific, engineering and historical facts – along with the obligatory ludicrous ideas that, technically, would work.

There’s something for everyone in Steve Mushin’s book, which is sure to see a flurry of out-of-the-box inventions from readers. Who knows what might happen?

Allen & Unwin have this book listed as suitable for readers 9–99. Personally, I know some younger children who would lap up these ideas. However, they’re right – we ALL need to get on board with this sort of thinking if we’re to save our planet.

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