Friday, 19 November 2010

Time to take stock

There's a lot of anger out there! Stewart, Alan and Gavin are not happy boys at all, and they represent but a small sample of the 'middle-aged blogger' out there (sorry boys, anyone over 35 years old counts in my definition of that particular demographic).

It's almost a given, a universal law, that us human beings think that the younger generations get it wrong, that they don't know how well off they are, and do not hold dear such old cherished values as manners, dignity and gratefulness that we elders still clutch tightly to our chests. It's also the way of the older and more experienced practitioner to look down at the newcomers and Johnny-come-lately's as if they are in need of pity, ridicule and - even more damning - to be ignored altogether. Not everyone thinks this way, but enough do to make it far from uncommon.

This is where it has all gone horribly wrong.

Why should a newcomer or youngster want to follow such miserable old gits into this life of natural history appreciation if they get frequent knock backs. Why should they continue if there is no encouragement. In which case, who will be left to carry the torch when we all inevitably die?

There is a counter argument, and that is that the behaviour of some of the new order is based not just in ignorance of etiquete, but in an ignorance of common sense, social manners and a lack of true appreciation of what is around them. This is gross generalisation I know, and also a case of sitting on the fence, but I have always seen things in 'grey' throughout my life and hardly ever in black and white.

Alan's post in particular got me thinking. How am I helping the future of natural history study? Should it matter? So I conducted a simple experiment. If I died tonight, what would my legacy be to the natural history of the UK? What would I leave behind?

Not a lot as it happens...

My possessions: notebooks (in a skip most probably, maybe one or two kept as family mementoes), books (mostly given away to friends), optics (kept by the family but not used in earnest). Net result: no tangible trace.

My data: I have kept records since 1974, they have all been sent off, each year, to the relevant committees and clubs. Net result: a small contribution to the overall picture of UK natural history in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

My 'human' legacy: no member of my family has taken up any natural history study beyond the enjoyment of seeing the odd thing on walks or birds in the garden. No friend or aquaintance, as far as I know, has been 'converted' into an active participant. Net result: a handful of people that will appreciate natural history in the future and might possibly join the RSPB at some point, but not become actively involved in its safeguard.

My efforts: most of them selfish. No fundraising (not beyond membership fees at any rate), no conservation work, a little administrative undertaking. Net result: a pretty empty space.

Being brutally honest, beyond my enjoyment and recording of wildlife, my contribution towards its safeguard and in helping others to become passionate about it is poor. Very poor. Maybe I am getting to a time in my life where I need to start putting back into the hobby some of what I have taken out.

This blogging lark is good for the soul. You can come clean, it's carthartic, but you also run the risk of reading some hard truths in other peoples posts whether they are directed at you personally or not.


Graham James said...

Instead of concerning yourself over your legacy to the natural world, Steve, just be happy with the contribution that nature has made to your life.

Steve Gale said...

Graham, you are right to point out that it is a two way relationship between ourselves and nature. However, I think that we can only now appreciate a lot of what we see because of the efforts of previous generations to educate society or protect habitat. If none of us put anything back into the natural world then it would all quickly disappear. We'd be left with Stinging Nettles and Carrion Crows.

Graham James said...

That's very true, Steve, our contributions should add to the knowledge of future generations but conserving habitat seems to me to be more important and there is little that the average amateur nature enthusiast can do about that, apart from supporting some of the larger conservation organisations.

Rob said...

Most of you fogeys are all right! I've been birding for two years now and have barely ever felt like I was being looked down upon for being a beginner. Generally most birders just don't interact with each other much anyway, I figure in my case they feel that they have little in common which is possibly fair. But when I've asked the odd question in a hide or when out with a group most of you have been very helpful and I would be a far worse birder without that help.

One recurring theme I've found amusing though, is the distaste for technology. I get tutted at for using an electronic guidebook on my ipod from the same folks who have optics worth 10 times mine and have driven there in comfort before trotting into a hide while I've had to take public transport and walk several miles to do the same.

I think everyone can be very effective in conservation by volunteering locally. Your local wildlife trust and the many "friends" groups will all have volunteer work days in which you can make a clear contribution whether litter-clearing, coppicing, scrub-clearing, pond-digging, hedge-laying etc. My local wood wouldn't be nearly as interesting if the friends group hadn't started coppicing and thus opening up the otherwise dim and sparsely vegetated understorey.

Graham James said...

Hi Rob, it's true that many of us fogeys dislike technology (I certainly do) as half of us can barely send a text message!
As for conservation, I spent eight years in Kent volunteering and it was rewarding. Locally, I would not volunteer to help the local wildlife trust for reasons that Steve, myself and many others are well aware of. But this is not the kind of conservation I meant.
Reserves are fine, but there is much of the British countryside away from reserves that need conserving and protecting and it is only the larger organisations that have the resources to tackle such challenges.