Gaia Reading Challenge 2020 – Watership Down


Sharon from Gum Trees and Galaxies is hosting a reading challenge this year that is most appropriate for these times. The Gaia Reading Challenge draws our attention to books, both fiction and non-fiction, that focus on an environmental theme. The environment is high on the agenda these days, as it should be. From the catastrophic fires we have experienced in Australia  to one of the worst droughts in our history, together with the international  challenges we face due to climate change, there is no better time to educate ourselves about the world that we live in and be inspired by the beauty of nature.

The challenge is not onerous, designed to be both flexible and inclusive, so if you are a keen reader, a nature lover or just concerned about the impact we are having on our environment, I encourage you to read about Gaia 2020 here.


Gaia is the name of a primordial Greek Goddess who was seen as the ancestral mother of all life. She also had a very interesting sex life which you can read about here.

During the 1970s Gaia also became the name for a scientific hypothesis about the relationship between organisms and their environment. In simple terms, it suggests that organisms co-evolve with their environment. The environment influences the organism, and the organism influences the environment. Apparently it’s a bit controversial, although the gist of it made sense to me, but then,  I’m not a scientist.  

My first read for the Gaia Reading challenge is Watership Down by Richard Adams which I wrote a little about in my last Book Snap Post. You can read about that here. 



I really enjoyed reading Watership Down but it does raise questions about how we manage the natural environment. The destruction of the rabbit warren is violent – poison gas, shootings, blocking up escape routes. No rabbit was intended to escape. It makes you wonder about this kind of thinking. When something is in the way of human progress, just tear it down, blow it up, desecrate and eradicate. Leave no sign of previous occupants. Wildlife is expendable.

Of course, the heroic band of rabbits in Watership Down do survive against the odds, finding a new home, fighting off the villains, and discovering unexpected friends along the way.

Rabbits are a bit of a contentious issue in Australia. As an introduced species they have caused considerable damage on the natural environment and on the native species. Over the years there have been a variety of different strategies used to try to control the population: the introduction of diseases such as Myxomatosis (1950s) and the Calicivirus (1990s); the erection of rabbit-proof fences in WA & QLD;  as well as poisoning, shooting, trapping and just ripping up the warrens with machinery,  dismembering and burying rabbits alive in the process. Yes, rabbits have caused and continue to cause a lot of damage, but these are mostly very cruel ways of dying. Is there no humane way of managing pest populations?



In contrast, rabbits are apparently so rare in Southern Europe that it is causing conservation problems for species higher up the food chain!

I confess that I have a soft spot for rabbits. When I was younger, growing up in SA,  I had pet rabbits – but only one at a time! My rabbits were cute fluffy white angoras with pink eyes. The first one I had came from a friend who was moving away. He was a long-haired Angora, but he wasn’t used to being handled so we could never catch him. But my second rabbit we had since he was a baby, so he was very tame but also somewhat tenacious. You can see the photos of him below, on top of his hutch and in the Apricot tree.

Here in QLD we are not allowed to have pet rabbits. I understand the threat, though I feel a bit sad. Pet rabbits are usually quite timid.  I suspect they wouldn’t last long in the wild even if they did escape!

Wild rabbits are a different matter, of course. But it’s a tricky thing trying to balance the conservation and protection of the environment and native species on the one hand, without resorting to cruel practices on the other.





4 thoughts on “Gaia Reading Challenge 2020 – Watership Down

  1. It is hard not to feel for rabbits, we should be humane in all that we do, including pest management. We also had a rabbit in Canberra, an absolute character and much loved. Wonderful post, I remember Watership Down form ages ago, really should re-read it made a strong impression first time around. It sounds like it stands the test of time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rabbits do make wonderful pets and I think there is something about having a pet that fosters a respect for the life of animals and a responsibility to be concerned for their welfare. I agree, I think Watership Down has stood the test of time and it is a text I would happily reread in the future.


  2. Pingback: January reading and challenge summary – Gum trees and Galaxies

  3. Pingback: Environment-Nature-climate: reading list – Gum trees and Galaxies

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