When I was young I wanted to be Clint Eastwood. I don’t just mean I liked him and his seemingly never-ending stream of heroic roles. No, I wanted to be him. I’ve wanted to be a few people during my 53 years on this crazy ball of rock. Archie Gemmill, Francis Rossi and one of the Thunderbird pilots – I can’t remember which one. Even in my early thirties when I got into photography, there were a few people I wanted to be – who wouldn’t want to be Vincent Munier? Good looking, charismatic and sickeningly talented. Je ne suis pas digne.
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.
It was John Muir who once said that conservation is a battle between right and wrong. There are some things in this world that are just plain wrong and when it comes to our relationship with Nature, the list is extensive. Continue reading “Malta Massacre on Migration”
I sometimes find it difficult to pitch this blog. On the one hand, I’m concerned (as we all should be) about environmental injustices and to that end, open dialogue is a food that nourishes fresh perspectives and values. On the other hand, I’m a photographer and my guess is that most people visiting this blog want to see pictures or at the very least, read material that is directly relevant to nature photography. I’ve heard many negative comments about photographers getting all too worthy and I definitely don’t want to fall into that trap – please prod me if that is becoming the case!!
So is it my place to slap the humble readership of this blog around the face and make it feel so guilty about its environmental performance that it feels compelled to go and live in a cave? Of course not. It’s my place to try my best to inspire and send folk away with a nice warm fuzzy feeling – isn’t it? The fact is I’m not sure, and my indecision was crystallised just yesterday.
Chris Packham is writing the foreword to the upcoming 2020VISION book and I’ve just received his draft text. Now I’m a great fan of Chris’ straight-talking pragmatism and I agree with most of what he says. But in this case, I was a tad surprised about his views on the lack of merit in modern conservation, not to mention wildlife photography. I see his point but having read the piece I felt a bit worthless and deflated. In this state of mind am I best placed to go out and do my bit to inspire others? Probably not.
And then this morning, colleague Niall Benvie sent me a raft of material from the very clever people at Futerra, a London-based company committed to creative environmental communication (check them out). Their first document, ’10 rules for communicating sustainability’ centred throughout on positivity, encouragement…even love. Rule 6 says “avoid too much guilt.”
It’s very easy to report bad news and over the years, photographers with a mind to effective communication, have been as guilty as anyone for doing just that. But does it work? Well, for what it’s worth, I think it does…for a while. But in the longer term we become fatigued with guilt and not wanting to carry around such a burden, we simply shed it, block it out.
I’ve got to say I kind of enjoy discussing the sensitive issues that govern our way forward as a species but increasingly, I recognise that I’m perhaps more productive going back to basics and producing (and showing) imagery that make people feel good. This based on the perhaps naive assumption that if we feel good, we’re more likely to do good. At a time when the role of visual communication has never had such an exciting songpost to sing from, it’s critical that as photographers, we pitch our message sensitively and creatively.
And whilst we’re talking about warm, fuzzy feelings, make sure you check out 2020VISION’s daily WOW Factor image here. There’s no message, no agenda, it’s just nice!
It’s a sticky one. In fact it’s so sticky, no government or conservation group (at least any reliant on membership revenue) will touch it with a bargepole. But in reality, you can forget climate change, species extinction or habitat loss, there is only ONE issue at the root of all those other issues: Human Population. There I said it. And to his credit, Mark Carwardine has said it too in this month’s BBC Wildlife Magazine. Even David Attenborough recognises the futility of conservation without a radical rethink on our own burgeoning population. ” I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more.” David is obviously an intelligent man, but you really don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to conclude that.
So when should ‘we’ as intelligent, responsible members of society, say something? There are 7 billion of us now with 9 billion predicted for 2050. Just half a century ago, that figure was 3 billion. Quite frankly I don’t see a human rights issue in protecting the right to breed, but I do see an issue in trying to accommodate a population that can’t be fed or have access to basic resources. So is now the time to stop worrying about offending religious or human rights groups and to speak out on what is a mind-blowingly obvious global issue?
Now before you start pelting me with rotting vegetables, can I just say that this is not about culling old people, Asian people, short people, any people. As Chris Packham has said, there are not ‘too many’ of any particular type of people, there are just too many ‘organisms’. In other words, we have to look at this biologically rather than emotionally. And there is light along the tunnel. It’s a fact that when women have access to education and family planning facilities…AND when they are treated as equals to men, the birth rate falls.
The problem is staring us in the face and although riddled with emotional and cultural considerations, so is the solution. Perhaps we all need to put our brushes down and stop sweeping this under the carpet?