It seems to me on my morning scan of Facebook and Twitter, that once again I have been bombarded by a host of petitions, causes and campaigns all clamouring for my support. My conscience is assaulted by the plight of the honey bee, the nightingale, seabirds, tigers, pangolins, fish, and goodness knows what else. What’s worse is that they all make a bloody good point and as a naturalist I care about every single one of these species…
So an observation or two:
I may only be 22, but it seems to me like every single one of these issues is linked.
In the last three decades of the nineteenth century our ‘delight’ in nature began to powerfully emerge (the Commons Preservation Society, 1865; the [R]SPB 1889; National Trust 1895); in the 1930s we saw the rise of the science of ecology in government & society which taught us that all nature was connected; and across the 1960s we witnessed the powerful emergence of modern environmentalism as a socio-cultural and political force. These formed the basis of an emotional and cultural connection link with the natural world that we still carry with us today. Or at least, some of us do.
However, we are under pressure from other, conflicting cultural ideals; post-WWII, we have become accustomed to meat, fuel, fish, fresh vegetables, high quality goods, all at a low cost for the everyday modern consumer. For someone not to be able to afford meat or fish or eggs anymore – well it’s unthinkable!
The problem lies in that these two attitudes conflict. As human beings, we are divided, we are puzzled, we are confused; do we want cheap consumer products, or do we want to protect our heritage and countryside? You cannot confidently say that you want to protect our seas and give them a chance to recover, and then pop down to shops for a packet of fish fingers. You cannot say that you are disgusted with the badger cull, or be shocked when Black Beauty turns up in your lasagne, and then buy commercially priced meat at a low cost. How much does it cost to raise a cow or a pig? I don’t know, but more than 17p per sausage I’d guess…
In a survey I read the other day on Facebook, conducted by the Marine Stewardship Council, one girl responded that “Fishing is cruel and is ruining our planet. Im [sic] tired of people trying to justify their own blood lust with labels like “freerange” and “humane murder”. Humane murder is up there with “friendly rape” It does not exist. Quit being the bullies of the world and leave the animals alone.”. Well that was helpful wasn’t it. It’s people who use emotive, un-researched, unfounded and accusatory journalism that, in my opinion, make life difficult for those of us actually trying to make an educated difference. What this young lady forgets is that the fisheries issue is not just an emotive one, but an economic one, a political one, a cultural one, a social one, one that effects millions of everyday people who she has never met before, and therefore has no right to judge, despite her self-righteous ranting.
And now, as if to add to the weekly shopping list of atrocities that our government commits towards nature – let’s not teach children anything beyond the biological facts of the natural world, let’s not even talk about it. Let’s not discuss climate change and global warming, so that (and here’s a plan!), when our kids grow up and wonder why there’s no more polar bears or why the Maldives seemed to have done an Atlantis on us, they can sit and scratch their heads in bewilderment. But that’s okay, because to take their puzzled little minds off it they can go fox hunting.
In a way, I’m glad that Gove has proposed this, as now there is a common cause for the country to cry out against, not limited to those of us who take an active interest in nature. To paraphrase a good friend of mine, Gove is so out-of-touch with his attitudes he is almost prehistoric. Maybe he hasn’t seen the phenomenal viewing figures for BBC’s Deadly 60, Africa, Frozen Planet, Spring-, Autumn- & Winterwatch, etc. Maybe he hasn’t read Dr William Bird’s reports for the RSPB on the importance of the natural world in our mental, social, physical and emotional well-being. Maybe he hasn’t gone outside and spoken to anyone in a while.
So I call on every NGO relating to children, physical health or mental health, every school teacher, every social worker, every parent, and most of all every environmental NGO – it is your responsibility to speak out against this ridiculous state of affairs. Every single one of the issues above is related, and it is only with a deep-seated shift in our national responses towards nature, an increase in our expectations of the natural world, starting with the well-rounded education of our children, will we able to combat these narrow-minded, ignorant and fantastically short-sighted policies.