Thursday, 1 December 2011

Does the World needs natural buddies?

The first day of December. Yet instead of the usual sepia-dominated winter palette, everything here is still very much in glorious Technicolor.

The warm, wet autumn, and the lack of frosts, have allowed many plants to keep living and growing well beyond their usual span. In the woodland by the river to the south of the village the young, fresh leaves of violet, water avens and ferns are bright green. They bask in the low, buttery sunlight now that the birch and hawthorns above them have lost their leaves. A small, still-copper-leaved beech tree is growing on the steep cliffs of the opposite bank like an outstretched hand. It catches a stray beam of sun and flames out against the dark grey rocks as I walk by. In the River Field there are still some meadow buttercups in flower. Some of their petals are pale and translucent where the morning's light frost has caught them, but most still have that solid, waxy, bright yellow shine of children's crayons. As usual I feel very lucky to be able to step out of my house to see all this.

It wasn't so glorious earlier this morning, when a series of cold, squally showers strafed the village on their way east. I sat inside reading an interview with David Attenborough in The Times. It was sobering stuff, and reminded me that not many are as lucky as I am.

'We have lost all touch with nature, says Attenborough', said the headline. This wasn't quite accurate. What Attenborough said was that now, according to UN figures, over 50% of us live in urban environments. That means that over 50% of the Earth's population 'is to some extent out of touch with the natural world'. He went on to comment that unless action is taken to help bring people back into some kind of contact with nature (in his case through making natural history programmes) we have little chance of convincing people - or politicians - to take action to protect it.

I was thinking about this on my walk. If 50% live in urban environments, that still leaves 50% in the countryside. What if everyone in the city had a virtual, rural (or at least nature-savvy) 'buddy' to communicate with, to tell them what was going on in the natural world? With all the social media at our disposal surely it's not beyond the bounds of possibility - a tweet, a Facebook page, a LinkedIn network? If every one of the million RSPB members, for example, agreed to put something on Twitter once a week - how many people would that connect with wildlife? Do you think it would work? Would you give it a try?

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