I've pretty much given up on Twitter these days*, but I did check in a couple of days ago and found a classic spat going on.
Guy Shrubsole had a book published this year called "The Lost Rainforests of Britain". It has won awards and sold well, and Guy has been doing a well executed media round. This success is evidently a problem for some.
The "discussion" about it on Twitter started with someone called Harriet Rix posting a damning review. Harriet works for the Tree Council, so I thought it would be worth a read. Unfortunately, it was peppered with ad hominem attacks; Guy's problems started with being a white colonialist man and were compounded by buying a Barbour and moving to Devon. Red meat for Twitterati.
Why do people fight over this stuff? There's usually a commercial as well as a personal explanation for it - in this case, to sell a magazine. I hate the way the natural world around us has for some people become another front in the culture wars which so blight our political discourse.
To The Point
Anyway, the tone of the review is a shame, because it devalues some reasonable points. For example, Harriet complains that our ideas on the environment are being shaped by a small number of well meaning enthusiasts with money and/or influence.
It's something that troubles me too. I'm surprised by some of the folk I come across shaping policy/opinion and putting habitat creation schemes together, who had no background in these areas, no mandate or authority, and haven't apparently picked up the right kind of information along the way. I've heard and read some pretty jaw droppingly wrong statements over the last few years from people who should know better, and come across several hopeless but well funded projects in the field. I'm surprised by the misconceptions that many "ordinary country folk" have too, by the way!
I guess this is a symptom of the failure of government we're all so painfully aware of, as well as experts' failure to communicate effectively. There are too few like Dave Goulson out there.
More Action Please
The kind of entrenched ideologically driven positions you find on Twitter are a recipe for disaster. If we feel the need to have a go at anyone, we would all be better employed having a pop at the elected representatives who are letting us down so badly at the moment.
Now more than ever we all just need to concentrate on actioning practical and effective solutions to the crisis we're in. Right now. I watched an old documentary about the winter of 1962-63 the other day. It devastated animal populations, but they bounced back incredibly quickly. I can't think they will now, as they struggle to survive through the temperature ranges we've endured this year in our much denuded landscapes. I spent a miserable afternoon clearing out our birdboxes before the latest big freeze, and if the mortality rates I found were indicative we're in big trouble.
I'm pleased the country's leading wildlife charities are stepping up much more aggressively to help fill the current policy vacuum, but - as they know - the real work needs doing at the coalface. Local Nature Recovery Networks are potentially an answer, but they need to actually do stuff. I went to a meeting of a thriving local group the other night, discussing what can be done for wildlife through the current ELMS shambles. There were all sorts of people there; farmers, farm advisers, landowners, local politicians, ecologists, the local Wildlife Trust, Natural England. They are really achieving things, despite everything.
I've seen some fabulous urban projects put together over the years by well informed and enthusiastic community groups like Chiltern Rangers, who have just finished planting a kilometre of native hedges around local housing estates.
We also supply a local Somerset charity, Carymoor, who are working with volunteers to plant thousands of whips around their landfill site to make nightingale habitat. National charities we support like the Bumblebee Conservation Trust just get on with the job of working on the science and habitat creation projects, demonstrably making a difference. There are thousands of people actually DOING great things around the country.
And as for me, thanks Harriet - I won't be rejoining Twitter any time soon.
*Tentatively, have set up a Mastodon account, @HabitatAid@mastodonapp.uk