BBC Wildlife’s recent list of the Top 50 Conservation Heroes made for interesting reading. It’s all completely subjective of course and but for what it’s worth, I thought most had a strong claim for inclusion. Others were more dubious choices and one or two made me really think hard (was anyone ever brought to justice over the hen harrier shooting on Sandringham Estate?) Then there were some very obvious omissions – Roy Dennis and Sir John Lister-Kaye to name but two.
There was one name that didn’t feature and that was Peter Cairns. Now before you start hurling rocks at your screen, I’m not claiming to have done anything remarkable to conserve or enhance Planet Earth and that’s my point. I’m not on that list and I should be. And so should everyone reading this blog. By not being on the list, or at the very least aspiring to be, we’ve all fallen short. That’s not to belittle the contribution that many of us make on a daily basis but let’s be honest here, it’s not enough. The rather depressing fact is that Nature is losing the war.
Wouldn’t it be great if instead of a random list of individuals, some of whom appear thanks to their profile rather than their actions, the country as a whole could hold its head up as a pioneer, as a leader in global conservation? Think of the pride if we could proclaim to others the resurgence of hen harriers, the widespread reintroduction of beavers or the restoration of a million acres of wild land? The fact that there is a list of just 50 – or even 500 – is a reflection of society’s poor commitment to the future of the planet.
So what to do? I’ve been giving that a lot of thought lately and whilst pondering, my colleague Niall Benvie sent me an article he’d written for Outdoor Photography magazine. In it, Niall suggests it’s time to get angry. This month’s BBC Wildlife includes an excellent column by Springwatch presenter Chris Packham. In it, Chris suggests it’s time to get angry.
I’ve got to say that I agree. But angry with who? At what?
The System that’s what. The political, cultural and economic system that perpetuates the demise of the natural world. The System is wide-ranging, multi-faceted and extremely powerful. It is also morally bankrupt and if left unchecked, will poison our land, our seas and ultimately our own species. From that point of view, it’s also completely illogical, but it persists nevertheless.
I’m growing to resent The System and the fact that it justifies itself simply on the basis that it’s been around for a while. The same could once have been said of slavery.
Angry doesn’t mean abusive. Yesterday I got angry with my local council for their policy on strimming the roadside verges bedecked with wildflowers at this time of year. Today I got angry by signing an online petition to encourage an airline to stop doing business with SeaWorld in Florida. I wasn’t rude or overly aggressive but The System needs to know that people give a damn.
Just imagine if we all got angry with The System. Then we’d all be Heroes.