A funny old week…

It started with a 1000-mile round trip to deliver a presentation in Derby, the place I grew up in. The talk was attended by an old school teacher of mine and a smattering of friends and family huddled on the back row (there were others there too you understand!) Weird.

Tuesday brought about a meeting to secure the 2020VISION roadshow in The National Forest – this from discussions that have stretched over the best part of 2 years. Relief.

Wednesday was a relatively normal day in the office although we did buy 5 Highland Cows as conservation grazers. Daunting. I also met with a mate of mine who revealed insider knowledge about a rather exciting reintroduction project about to be unleashed. Intriguing. This was also the day I heard the news about the Manchester police women being shot. Shocking.

Thursday took me to a photographer friend’s for an update on various matters and contrary to the usual frivolous nature of our discussions, today was more sombre as a member of his family is very unwell.  On returning home I was greeted with the news that our old Highland pony (he’s not ours actually but he lives with us) was lame and would need to be put to sleep. Sad and Sobering.

An early call yesterday created a meeting with a local landowner about a potential commission documenting a massively ambitious restoration scheme in the Highlands. Inspiring.

As I sit here writing, Amanda is busying around getting stuff together for our holiday to Yellowstone. Bizarre.

So what’s all this got to do with a photographic blog? Well if truth be told, I’m feeling a bit emotional; high emotion has been the common denominator throughout this last week. The more I think about the state of the natural world and what can be done to right some of the wrongs, the more I become convinced that we don’t use our unique capacity for emotion creatively enough. I read a while ago that generally speaking, people’s relationship with nature isn’t rational or scientific; it’s emotional. And it’s true. You can peddle all the ecological science, all the socio-economic data, all the conservation buzzwords you like, but for most people, nature is something they ‘feel’. Great photography is something that makes people ‘feel’.

As a nation we’ve done a pretty good job this summer ‘feeling’ the Olympics and Paralympics and what high emotion reigned for those few weeks. But spectacular as they undoubtedly were, these are transient events, moments in time. If only we, as a society, could harness that Olympic energy, that high-octane emotion and mobilise it for nature. That would be something worth getting up on Monday morning for. And Tuesday. And Wednesday.

Smooth chin syndrome.

Colleague Niall Benvie made me chuckle with his ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ blog post recently. Once you get to grips with Niall’s skewed thinking (and I’m not sure I ever will), this particular post is a satirical poke at the Scottish psyche and its unwillingness to tolerate anyone who gets ‘too big for their boots’ or advocates innovative thinking.

Niall is Scottish by birth and can say such things without fear of a dawn raid from the Political Correctness Police. I was born south of the border and would suggest that such a trait is not confined to native Scots. Conservatism is a British thing, something we’re comfortable with. Innovation makes us nervous. Innovators are mavericks intent on upsetting the status quo; hellbent on making a name for themselves; obvious exploiters and out for their own ends. Like the over-ambitious poppy, they need trimming back.

Now, you might detect a raw nerve here and yes, hands up, I’m a bit pissed off. Why? Well because I’ve met many people (from within the conservation community) who don’t like tall poppies. They rub their chin long and hard and shake their heads. “It can’t be done.” “It’s not possible.””It’ll never work.” These chin-rubbers are often at the forefront of conservation policy making and in my humble view, forget one thing: one thing that was highlighted in a superb report called Branding Biodiversity. That is that for the vast majority of people in this country, nature conservation is a very long way down their priority list and if you want to address that, you need to tap into their value system. “People aren’t rational, they’re emotional” says the report. Quite so.

For my money then, anyone who puts their head above the parapet, tries something different, seeks to touch people on an emotional level, strives to be a tall poppy – they deserve encouragement, investment. They’re not mavericks, they’re heroes. We can sit and rub our chins as much as we like but in the meantime, we’re failing as a society to protect our most valuable asset.