Dara McAnulty: Meet The 16-Year-Old Author Who’s Trying To Save The Planet

Dara McAnulty is a 16-year-old published author who, in his novel, discusses life in the Northern Island, advocating for climate change policies, living with autism, and finding peace in a world that is often so cruel.

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Dara McAnulty is a 16-year-old published author who, in his novel, discusses life in the Northern Island, advocating for climate change policies, living with autism, and finding peace in a world that is often so cruel. The novel is titled Diary of a Young Naturalist, and was recently published despite the current Covid-19 pandemic. This summer McAnulty was gearing up to tour a number of book festivals but due to the pandemic, he’s taking to his social media to discuss his viewpoints instead. 

“I feel like my being is suffering from a slow puncture. I honestly feel like the world is falling apart right now,” he tweeted recently. In a recent video call interview, McAnulty went on to describe the content of his book, which is a combination of a nature book and memoir. Before the release of Diary of a Young Naturalist, McAnulty was often in the headlines, as the public drew a lot of similarities between him and other young-adult climate activist Greta Thunberg. 

The memoir aspect of the book discusses McAnulty’s experiences being autistic, which he partially credits to his profound and gorgeous style of writing. He currently lives with both of his parents and two younger siblings in Northern Ireland, every member of his family besides his father also has autism. Dara described his family as having a very close relationship, comparing themselves to a group of otters. 

McAnulty has a very advanced, wise style of writing that can be compared to the likes of Robert Macfarlane and Chris Packaham. When asked about his own specific literary inspirations, McAnulty claims Seamus Heaney is one of his favorites. 

“Seamus Heaney, you can reread his poems again and again, there are all these different compartments like bubbles. You pop them one at a time and there’s no centre to it. There’s this saying about a brain: if a brain was simple enough to understand, we’d be too stupid to understand that brain. That’s almost the same as Seamus Heaney’s poems because they have such complex connections.”

McAnulty recalls one time when one of his teachers told him he would never be able to write a clear-cut paragraph, causing him to feel extremely depressed. He also was bullied by all the other kids because of his inability to make casual small talk and was overwhelmed everyday by the loud noises and overwhelming environment of his school.

He described this experience as feeling “things more intensely. In a shopping center there’s all of those different noises coming from different angles – my brain can’t process them quickly enough, and everything goes completely crazy. Being out in nature, the sounds are quite level and I find it easier with muted colors. Everything just works. It’s not oppressive.”

He began writing at a young age, despite his teachers disgustingly disheartening words, and that was actually one of the first ways McAnulty recalls processing the world in a way that made more sense with how he thought/viewed everything. When social media began to take over the planet, McAnulty was also able to further find people who were just as interested in nature as him; at 12 he even began his own nature blog. 

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“One of my ways of processing the world is writing things down. Four years ago I wouldn’t have been able to talk to you right now,” he says. “Twitter opened my world to like-minded people. You’ll always find someone who is willing to talk to you about mycelial networks. It’s given me so many opportunities to connect with people and not feel so isolated.”

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When he entered into his teenage years, McAnulty began advocating for the natural world that he grew to love so much. Initially he took to his blog to campaign for birds of prey and tried to ban the hunting of them. This advocacy led to his blog gaining a lot of online attention, so much so that he got the opportunity to appear on Springwatch, a nature program on the BBC.

His appearance on the show is also what led to his book deal, as Adrian Cooper and Gracie Burnett, the couple who runs tiny independent book publishing company Little Toller, were watching the same episode that he was on; they learned about his writing and blog from the appearance as well.  

Diary of a Young Naturalist tells the story of McAnulty’s year from spring equinox to spring equinox, from his 14th to 15th birthday. It was a difficult time. His family moved from one side of Northern Ireland to the other and he had to cope with changing schools and losing his cherished wild heartlands, a forest called Big Dog,” wrote The Guardian. The transitional period was one of the roughest times in McAnulty’s life, and he discusses how a panic-attack breakdown in the garden led to him changing schools, loving nature even more than he could’ve ever imagined, and beginning a life of advocacy for Mother Nature. 

Now, McAnulty is already writing his second book, which he claims is a picture book for younger children. He plans on studying biology, math, chemistry, and politics and starting a career in conservation science; the same job his dad has. However, currently activism is what takes up most of his time. Most recently he’s been running a project that satellite-tags birds of prey to track them while also playing a key role in the eco group at his school. It’s younger individuals like him that give the world a glimmer of hope for a brighter tomorrow, and healthier planet.

Eric Mastrota

Contributing Editor

Eric Mastrota graduated with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and Journalism. His goal is to create content that readers find entertaining, informative and most importantly, beneficial.