Letter from the editor: Goodbye to Michael McCarthy, the man who made nature sing in the pages of The Independent


Related Topics

Apiece of Fleet Street folklore departed The Independent this week. Michael McCarthy finally hung up his binoculars as the paper's Environment Editor.

Why binoculars? Because as anyone who knows Mike will testify, he's happiest out in the wild, tracking animals in their natural habitats. His knowledge of his subject is truly encyclopaedic, even down to being able to recite the Latin name of any species he finds.

He's that rare creature himself – someone who combines a life-long passion with their day job. The result, down the years, has been brilliant coverage for The Independent of all things environmental, exclusives galore, memorable front pages and a clutch of awards for its indefatigable expert.

Mike led the field on climate change, determined to keep it at the top of the news agenda, never shirking from taking on the deniers. There was, though, more to his writing than "heavy" news stories. I well remember him phoning me in a state of high excitement as he was about to be allowed to view the lady slipper orchid, the first journalist to do so since it had been kept at a secret, tightly guarded location since the 1930s.

It was Mike who persuaded the powers-that-be here to open the company wallet and put up a cash prize for someone who could best explain the disappearance of the sparrow from Britain's gardens. And when the British Trust for Ornithology said it was going to fit 13 cuckoos with mini-satellite transmitters to track them on their 10,000-mile flights to Africa for the winter and back to Britain for summer, Mike had the idea of calling one of them "Indy" and recounting its epic journey in these pages.

Wrote the RSPB'S former conservation director, Mark Avery in a tribute on his blog: "Mike McCarthy has been, outstandingly, the premier writer on nature and nature conservation in the print media for many years – we nature conservationists will miss him." Added Avery: "I have shared many a bottle of claret and champagne with [him] and chewed the fat about wildlife, nature conservationists, politicians, literature, poetry, football – but the conversation always came back to wildlife as that is his passion and mine."

Mike is special, reports Avery, because his take on the world is so different from other journalists he has come across. As well as a football team (Fulham), McCarthy has a favourite flower (the greater butterfly orchid, because he likes its delicacy and the fact it grows in the shade but its vivid yellow flowers illuminate the darkness) and a butterfly (the silver-washed fritillary, because the slightly flattened curve of the leading edge of the forewing reminds Mike of Georgian silver – seriously).

Now Mike is retiring to write what we all hope will be a best-selling novel. Fortunately, he is not disappearing completely. He will still share his nature studies with us every Thursday. And today, there's a special treat, as he gives us his valedictory thoughts on the changing shape of the environmental movement.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions