Don't Bugger It Up
I had a great time at the launch of Buglife's "Get Britain Buzzing" campaign at the Royal Society this week - video below - shame about Bill Oddie and that annoying bee quote that's NOT Einstein, but otherwise very good, and I rather liked his alternative name for it (geddit?). The central message from the charismatic and engaging Germaine Greer was interesting. She sees the need for a change in social attitudes towards pollinators like the kind of change we have seen over a generation towards drink driving. Why, she asked, are children so interested in bugs and yet by the time they're grown up see them as a nuisance? Pollinators are the good guys, and we should welcome them into our gardens - more than that, we should learn to take pleasure from them and the ecosystems we can create. This is only a slightly different angle to the one I have banged on about in articles like this one in the FT, Nectar Pointers. Listening to Anne "The Bad Tempered Gardener" Wareham on Radio Four a couple of days ago I was absolutely sympathetic to her irritation with the heavy expectation on her from earnest conservationists and grow your own fans to be a "worthy" gardener. People don't garden to be worthy, and nor should they. They shouldn't do what they think is the right thing for wildlife; they should do what they want to do and create what gives them pleasure. The knack is to persuade them that the two things objectives coincide - to change their aesthetic. Perhaps we can do this by making it socially unacceptable to have decking like we've made it socially unacceptable to drink/drive (!), but I wonder if we haven't got a better chance to make people think it's just ugly. A good example is lawns; I bet within 10 years a flowery lawn will seem much more attractive than the manicured stripy job so beloved of lawnmower and selective weedkiller manufacturers. I'm sure attitudes towards pollinators will change - are changing. We're still a long away from getting there, though. If you want to see how far just go to Chelsea next week. These big gardening shows - another of my bugbears - still have "eco" or "biodiversity" areas. Why? Can't the RHS, a real opinion forming institution, be brave and quietly embrace these ideas into the mainstream? That's the way to facilitate change - make beautiful "wildlife friendly gardens" just appear the norm, without making a big song and dance about it or patronising people. I try and avoid talking about "wildlife gardening" and biodiversity for this reason in the context of gardening - it's alienating to a lot of folk in the same way that "eco building" is. I'll be at Chelsea on Sunday/Monday/Tuesday promoting native planting and the very beautiful "Meadow Anywhere" at the Hillier's exhibit, trying not to be worthy.