Friday 19 June 2015

Putting a price tag on 'natural resources' is not a solution; it just creates more problems

I'm so tired of hearing about the importance of 'economic growth' and I despair of humanity if we've reached the stage where wildlife is only conserved for its monetary value.  The same goes for water, air and soil quality. Every time I hear references these days to the natural world and its importance to us (the human race), the commentary is dotted with phrases like 'natural resources', 'ecosystem services', 'pollinator services', 'natural capital' etc etc. Phrases such as these make me wince. I've tried to understand them and to get along with them, but I simply can't.

As far as I can see we've already done plenty of economic 'growing' but I see no evidence whatsoever that it is making us any happier, or healthier….nor is it helping those who are most in need.  It just seems to be stripping us of the last vestiges of the connection we once had with the natural world. How on earth can you have an intimate, loving and interconnected relationship with something you have to put a price tag on?!

Economic growth seems to be about putting price tags on just about everything that moves; whether it has six legs and two pairs of wings, is composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, or lives next door and is willing to look after your small child or your elderly mother whilst you go into hospital for an operation. It's called monetisation and over the last few decades it seems to have insidiously crept its way into every area of our lives.

Surely the clue to how we should function as a species is in how we feel and see things as children? i.e our natural state of being. We are born with an innate connection to Planet Earth, a connection that (if it is nurtured) fills us with love and concern for our fellow creatures, but this connection is systematically drummed out of us when we go to school, if not before, and is mostly replaced with a very human-centric 'what can it do for me' view of the world.

Whatever happened to us caring for something and wanting to conserve it simply for the love of life? What, I wonder, has happened to the human race that we are now so disconnected from the land, from our natural surroundings, from our communities and from our own inner selves…. that we have all but forgotten who we are….?

There are of course many people who still have, or have recently re-discovered, their intimate connection with the natural world; people who hold all life sacred and who do what they can to conserve and preserve life for its own sake rather than for what is is worth in monetary terms. But these people are still few and far between.

I battle with the fact that to inspire (most) businesses, councils etc., and (some) individuals to sit up and take notice of the importance of 'bee decline', it is not sufficient to introduce them to the wonderful, enchanting and enthralling world of these incredible beings, but it is also necessary to focus on the human-centric aspect of halting bee decline. Most people need, at the very least, to understand bees importance as pollinators in the human food chain in order that they will take their decline more seriously.  Surely bee decline, or the decline of any other species impacted upon by the human race for that matter, should be a serious issue in its own right?

When I deliver talks to individuals, groups and societies I always feel extremely touched and encouraged when I witness the sadness and the raw humanity in people as they begin to understand exactly how toxic pesticides like neonicotinoids are to bees… and exactly how much habitat has been lost to modern agricultural practices and urban sprawl… not to mention the undiluted shock they express when they hear how bumblebees are bred in their thousands to 'service' commercial tomato crops, and then frozen, drowned or burned to death after the pollinating is done.

Whether or not any of what I say has a lasting impact on the way people make their choices I don't know.

There are many reasons used to justify the ongoing shift towards putting a monetary value on the natural world, and we are all entitled to think/believe what we wish, but none of them sit well with me…. despite the crazy irony that governments are paying huge attention to bee decline simply because of their so called 'value to the economy'. Lucky bees. Not so lucky if you are an insect with less (known) value to the economy though, for you are ultimately dispensable.

My own belief is that if we are to save what is left of the incredible diversity of species we share this planet with, nothing short of a complete Sea-change in our collective psyche is needed. Putting a price on wildlife, clean water and air, or healthy 'living' soil is not the solution. It just creates more problems and disconnects us further from all that is sacred. 

If only we would all spend a little time each day (or even each week) simply sitting quietly on the grass, beside a stream, on a beach, in a garden, in a park, amongst some rocks, underneath a tree (or even better, in a tree!)…. and just listen, breath, observe, watch, notice, absorb…….. connect. If we were all to do this we might collectively begin to experience once again that unadulterated wonderment, enchantment and love we felt when we were children. And we cannot hurt that which we love.

Brigit x

P.S…..when did a bee last send you an invoice?

Friday 5 June 2015

Cornish 'Living Churchyard' Wildlife Mangled by Council Contractors

I was too upset and angry to sleep last night and want to share the reason for my anger with as many people as possible in the hope that it might stop similar travesties from happening in other areas, to which end I make no apologies for the emotive (tabloid) language I have used in the title for this blog post. 

Last year I moved from my home in Tywardreath, on the south Cornish coast to live in Shaftesbury, North Dorset. I love my new home in Dorset, but of course there are things I miss about living in Cornwall, including the beautiful churchyard in Tywardreath. The church of St Andrew the Apostle is involved in Cornwall's wonderful Living Churchyards Project and has consequently become a haven for local wildlife. There is a sign in the churchyard explaining exactly why the grass and wild flowers are left to grow till the autumn, just in case anyone might think the space has been neglected.

As well as trees, grasses, wildflowers, small mammals, birds, frogs and insects, this churchyard is also home to hedgehogs and, at certain times of the year, provides an abundant feeding ground and evening roost for the lesser horseshoe bat.

Until this week that is.

For reasons known only to themselves, it seems that CORMAC who are contracted by the council to maintain churchyards in Cornwall, have chosen the month of June to obliterate this habitat in its entirety with their strimmers and mowers. Not only have they cut down every last blade of grass and wild flower, but their blades have massacred and mangled every living creature unfortunate enough not to have escaped in time from this wildlife sanctuary…. including, I'm told, fledgling birds, frogs and four hedgehogs.

One of the saddest things about this is the cruel irony that these creatures were attracted to the churchyard because of the wonderful way it has been managed…. only to be cut down and killed by mowers at the most abundant time of the year and at the peak of their breeding season.

My friend, Daniel, posted photographs of the damage yesterday on Facebook,  along with this heart rending post…

Our living churchyard here in Tywardreath destroyed by Cormac ! they strimmed around the signs that state no cutting back will be done until Autumn ! they drove their big mowers over the graves damaging them , Four dead hedgehogs were found mangled by the machinery along with several fledgling birds , frogs , all the wild flowers are gone along with all the bees , butterflies and other abundant pollinators that were there, which were a food source for all our nesting swifts and birds in the village and not to mention the food source for the rare bat species that we were blessed with there ! Angry is not the word !!!! :( absolutely livid !

It is of course too late now for the hedgehogs, birds, frogs, bees, butterflies etc who have been wiped out by this act of vandalism,  but hopefully someone will be held to account and lessons will be learned so that it doesn't happen again. My understanding is that there is evidence here for a prosecution under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. 

P.S  Since I wrote this blog, Cormac have stated on their twitter feed that their team 'cleared wildlife and frogs before.'   They have also posted the following statement on their Facebook page…

"In response to the concerns at Tywardreath Churchyard the matter is being looked into by our Area Manager. However we can confirm that we did take measures prior to any grass trimming to ensure that as far as reasonably possible no wildlife would be harmed. 
The dead hedgehog was found on site before any of our works took place. 
If our Area Manager identifies any areas for improvement then appropriate measures will be taken.
We are sorry to hear of the concerns but can assure residents that the matter will be followed up as necessary."

If you have a Facebook account you can find Daniel's post and more photos here…..