Friday, 24 August 2012

A wild idea

A chance comment overheard in a shop, and a fisherman's wry joke as I walked Jake the dog this lunchtime, give me hope for the future.

'It feels like autumn's coming - I can sense a change on its way', said the shop assistant I eavesdropped on. 'I'm off to catch my dinner', quipped the angler. But what they said sounded to me like: 'I'm still in touch with the natural world'; 'I still get a thrill out of hunting for wild food'.

There's much talk of our current dislocation with nature. Rightly, conservationists and environmentalists fear that if we don't understand or care about the natural world we won't try very hard to protect and restore it. Yet those random comments make me think that although many of us may have lost touch with our wild side, it's still very much alive, waiting like a dormant seed to be germinated in the right conditions.

What would those conditions be? Perhaps we can draw parallels with the UK's approach to the Olympics? The government invested billions of pounds not only in the infrastructure to make the Games happen, but in finding and training the athletes to achieve their potential - sometimes hidden until discovered by scouts and coaches. The legacy is to be the inspiration of a whole new generation of happier, healthier people for whom sport will be a key part of their lives - with more government investment to make that happen.

What would happen if a similar approach were taken to discovering our own potential for wildness - for valuing and taking part in the natural world? If government invested similar billions into the infrastructure - wilding school grounds, creating more nature reserves, National Parks, marine conservation areas and the like, reinforced by cash for training naturalists, funding teaching in schools, celebrating the best through awards and ceremonies. The legacy would not only be a whole new generation of happier, healthier people, but also a happier, healthier environment too.

Why are we waiting?

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