Monday, 30 January 2012


A friend sent me an e-mail yesterday. He said:
'Your blog about the river level a while back got me thinking about all the 'real-time' or 'near-real-time' data/information that's available now.... It struck me that we humans have got very good and well-equipped at measuring/monitoring things, but didn't stop a global economic crisis, climate change and natural disasters.'

It's true. On so many levels the process of amassing information has replaced taking action. Governments do it to delay making decisions, businesses do it to avoid taking the blame, I do it to make me feel like I'm achieving something.

Access to information on such a huge scale has ironically made us more passive, and more tense. We know about the threats to our environment - climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty - many of us spends hours a day reading, and worrying, about it  - hours that in the past would have been spent doing things, making things, experiencing things, that might have helped solve the problem.

Of course information is power - but it's only worth having that power if you are prepared to use it to change things. That doesn't seem to be happening at the moment in any meaningful way.

Just a small example. The RSPB and BTO have been monitoring farmland birds for decades. We know numbers are plummeting, here and now. Reading the figures in the papers, or online, makes my heart sink. Imagine a summer without skylarks. But the Scottish Government is planning to slash agri-environment budgets by a third. I'm not suggesting for a minute that those excellent charities have been wasting their time gathering the data - quite the opposite. We really need that information. But we need a next step - an action. Here's my suggestion. Turn off your computer (you can wait until you've finished reading this), go out for a walk, see a bird and enjoy it, then come back and send a letter to John Swinney via the RSPB's website telling him why birds are important to you, and why he should stop the agri-environment scheme cuts (there's a draft letter you can use). Then make sure you go out at least once every day and appreciate something natural. At least then you can move from passive-tense to active-tense.

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