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Becoming Citizen Naturalists with the Way Back Almanac

Becoming Citizen Naturalists with the Way Back Almanac

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Melinda Salisbury shares with us all about her latest book: The Way Back Almanac, to help us all re-find and nurture our relationship with the natural world.

Melinda is the twice Carnegie-nominated and bestselling author of multiple young adult novels, including the Sin Eater’s Daughter series, the State of Sorrow duology, and Hold Back the Tide. She has been nominated and shortlisted for multiple national and international awards, including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the YA Book Prize, and more and now she shares with us her latest book: The Way Back Almanac.

​​I wrote The Way Back Almanac for people who’ve either lost their connection with nature over the years or who want to forge a new or stronger relationship with the natural world.

The book is for those who live in cities, in flats or house-shares, who have limited resources, including time and outdoor space. By putting a modern spin on the more traditional almanac and providing practical and relatively accessible ways for people to engage with natural rhythms and cycles, I’m hoping people become more mindful, invested in, and more passionate about the world around us. I want people to feel like they’re a part of the natural world, not just an observer – everyone should be a Citizen Naturalist.

The idea for the Way Back Almanac

The idea for the book came to me after realising that all of the small things I’d been doing in a bid to improve my relationship with nature; eating more seasonally, growing my own food (in pots on windowsills), cutting out plastics, getting out into my neighbourhood to see what was around; might be helpful for other people too.

I think many barriers to so many people engaging with nature are that we have such a strict idea of what it looks like to be Out Doing Nature, and we forget that it’s everywhere, all the time, in our cities and on our streets. In our homes, even. You don’t need to live on the doorstep of a reservation to find it; thanks to the Internet, you don’t even need to leave your house.

I want everyone to feel they can make small changes and reap big rewards, physically, emotionally and psychologically.

I want everyone to understand that nature is something they’re a part of, all the time – not just on Sunday walks in The Countryside.

I called it The Way Back because that’s what it was for me. As a child, I was a nature obsessive. I had no friends; I spent all my time reading about nature, watching shows about it, or being out in it.

I founded The Animal Club (of which I was the only member), and my objectives were to learn the Latin names of every native UK mammal, to learn to identify their tracks and their stools (maybe this is why I had no friends…). I used to bake cakes to sell at break time to raise money for Greenpeace and the RSPB. Nature was my whole world… And then it wasn’t. I was a teenager, then an adult, and I lost this entire part of myself that used to be the biggest and most important part.

Re-finding my connection as an adult

It was Blue Planet II in 2017 that made me realise just how far I’d drifted from who I used to be and how apathetic and selfish I’d become regarding the natural world. The episode that highlighted the effects of plastics in the sea, culminating in the death of the pilot whale calf, made me feel so sad and so ashamed because I knew I was part of the problem.

I was partially to blame for it; from that point on, I started changing everything I could; I began cutting plastics out of my life in every conceivable area.

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I stopped using products with ingredients that were harmful to the planet. I cut back on travelling, sticking to the train where possible. I started shopping locally and seasonally. If I could change it, I did. I appreciate a lot of the changes I was able to make due to privilege and that until giant corporations start making massive changes, the impact of my individual efforts is going to be small.

Still, I don’t think that excuses me from doing the best I can. So now I try. I’m not always perfect, but I am always trying.

I want the readers of this book to feel that too.

I want to create a nation of Citizen Naturalists; people who know their local area, who know what lives there, when they should expect to see it, and who care about it.

I want them to feel a responsibility to nature and to choose to live in ways that don’t demand they build a stick-fort in the woods and live on nettles but asks that they don’t buy things wrapped in tons of plastic, to think about the things they put into their bodies and on their skin. To look up at the night sky and know a few of the stars. To feel as though this planet is their home. We’re all familiar now with the saying “There is no Planet B”, so let’s live like it. Let’s make our one glorious life here on Earth something that works with nature, not against it.

You can find out more about The Way Back Almanac and Melinda Salisbury on her twitter, her website and her Instagram. You can also save 20% on the book via the Watkins Publishing website with code Almanac22!

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