For Na­ture’s sake, stop ar­gu­ing

Country Life Every Week - - TOWN & COUNTRY - Pine­hurst II, Pine­hurst Road, Farn­bor­ough Busi­ness Park, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 7BF Tele­phone 01252 555072 www.coun­trylife.co.uk

Kind-hearted vol­un­teers count barn owls and re­lo­cate wa­ter voles, gar­den­ers grow bud­dleja for but­ter­flies and slope pond sides so hedge­hogs can drink safely; oth­ers are paid to re­search in­sect health, pro­tect groundnest­ing birds from preda­tors, sow cover crops, cre­ate re­serves and lobby politi­cians. artists, MPS, writ­ers, celebri­ties and blog­gers can all do good things, too—na­ture con­ser­va­tion is per­formed un­der many guises, of­ten unsung (Voices for Na­ture, page 46).

all are pur­su­ing a com­mon good, yet too of­ten be­come bit­terly di­vided en route; prej­u­dice seems in­sur­mount­able and so­cial me­dia is vi­cious and quick to judge. What they more or less agree on, how­ever, is that con­ser­va­tion suc­cess is hard fought—it tends to come, chiefly, through small, of­ten one-man, re­gional, sin­gle-species projects—and that bad news is re­lent­less.

this month, a new writer brings a star­tlingly up­beat per­spec­tive. Chris thomas, an aca­demic, ac­knowl­edges in his book, In­her­i­tors of the World, that there are more species losers than win­ners, but he presents the case that change is in­evitable, that na­ture adapts to change and that much of it— the wild­flow­ers, birds and in­sects on a field mar­gin, even one with a fac­tory on the hori­zon—is present be­cause of, not in spite of, hu­man ac­tiv­ity.

Prof thomas’s views will not please ev­ery­one, no­tably his sug­ges­tion that we should em­brace joy­fully the Chi­nese mit­ten crab and the para­keet—he points out that even the house spar­row, a rel­a­tively mod­ern species in evo­lu­tion­ary terms, was once an alien— but he’s a prag­ma­tist: to­day’s pas­ture may have been, in ages past, a glacier, then a sand dune, a for­est and then ploughed field. ‘We shouldn’t have a ro­man­ti­cised view of na­ture as it is now or as it was some re­cent time in the past,’ he says. ‘We should ac­cept that species will sur­vive where they can, re­gard­less of where they his­tor­i­cally used to be.’

it’ll be some­thing to think about at this week­end’s Game Fair (Town & Coun­try, page 20), when di­verse strands of the con­ser­va­tion world collide, the RSPB and Wildlife trusts shar­ing space with Game­keep­ers’ row and the Coun­try­side al­liance. the at­mos­phere is tra­di­tion­ally re­spect­ful and, an­nu­ally, of­fers hope of con­struc­tive di­a­logue and com­mon ground.

it’s an op­por­tu­nity for hunters, fish­er­men and farm­ers to show what they do for copse, hedgerow, field and river and es­pe­cially for some shoot­ers and landown­ers to prove that they’re se­ri­ous about end­ing the hen-har­rier con­flict. and it’s a chance for the vo­cif­er­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal twit­ter­ers to grasp the fact that many peo­ple who live and work in the coun­try­side know what they’re do­ing.

‘We shouldn’t have a ro­man­ti­cised view of Na­ture as it is now or as it was in the past ’

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