‘An exceptional first book; Harvest is a subtle, fascinating braiding of travel, cultural and natural history … It is a pleasure and an education to journey with him in these pages’ Robert Macfarlane
In a centuries-old tradition, farmers in northwestern Iceland scour remote coastal plains for the down of nesting eider ducks.
High inside a vast cave in Borneo, men perched atop rickety ladders collect swiftlets’ nests, a delicacy believed to be a cure for almost anything.
Eiderdown and edible birds’ nests: both are luxury products, ultimately destined for the super-rich. To the rest of the world these materials are mere commodities but to the harvesters they are all imbued with myth, tradition, folklore and ritual, and form part of a shared identity and history.
These objects are two of the seven natural wonders whose stories Harvest tells: eiderdown, vicuña wool, sea silk, vegetable ivory, civet coffee, guano and edible birds’ nests. Harvest follows their journey from the wildest parts of the planet, traversing Iceland, Indonesia, and Peru, to its urban centres, drawing on the voices of the gatherers, shearers and entrepreneurs who harvest, process and trade them.
Blending interviews, history and travel writing, Harvest sets these human stories against our changing economic and ecological landscape. What do they tell us about capitalism, global market forces and overharvesting? How does a local micro-economy survive in a hyper-connected world?
Harvest makes us see the world with wonder, curiosity and new concern. It is an original and magical new map of our world and its riches.
A truly remarkable debut, weird, inquisitive and swarming with memorable characters
Posnett moves from one example to another with moral precision, wryness and a refusal to be discouraged. Stories build subtly and sometimes with sudden drama; all are entangled in complex political, cultural and ecological circumstances