Elite nature

3 thoughts on “Elite nature”

  1. We are all guilty of dumbing down, especially if we use social media platforms such as Twitter to reach out to the wider audience as well as trade-blows with our regular sparring partners. Experience suggests it is common on both sides of the conservation divide. I myself have been guilty in the past, especially on Twitter but also in meeting the demands of research bodies and clients wanting “user-friendly” or “non-specialist” descriptions of my work and data. It’s not always an easy thing to do, though I think I’m getting pretty good at it when given the luxury of 2000 words rather than 140 characters. I’ve written over 100 academic articles in journals and conference proceedings in my 30-odd year career as an academic but its is probably the non-peer reviewed thought pieces in ECOS (a non-IF rated journal) that have had the most impact of late. I’m in danger of digressing here but what I’m getting around to saying is that “dumbing down” is a necessity in today’s fast-paced, media driven, sound-bite society. The skill is rather getting the correct message across without it loosing any of it veracity or having to resort to half-truths (post-truth?) or hyperbole.

    I’ve come across some real blinders from the shooting lobby of late, especially in the run up to the so-called parliamentary petitions “debate” on driven grouse shooting. Clearly “those you shoot” were rattled and had their backs against the wall, hence the desperate measures of #NoMoorMyths videos and various spurious opinion surveys. Of course, they had nothing to fear (at least for now) as the Conservative “tweed-blob” closed ranks in predictable fashion and stymied any real debate.

    Two recent examples of post-truth dumbing down came in quick succession this week. The first was an article in The Country Squire Magazine by Peter Glenser (BASC Chairman) espousing the notion of “those who shoot” as the true custodians of the British countryside (see http://ow.ly/USxt306xtve). This was so resplendent with haughty hyperbole and half-truths I just had to answer back with a lengthy reply after getting my initial knee-jerk tweet off my chest. To their credit the Country Squire editors gave me the opportunity to edit this and turn it in to a “Right to Reply” article and this has now been published (see http://ow.ly/haYH306xtAA).

    The other wonderful bit of post-truth propaganda from the BASC came in the form of a survey tweeted under the headline “77% of the UK say their social life would be poorer without shooting” …an interesting little factoid I thought and so I dug deeper into the survey and its findings. Turns out it was based on a sample of 1,457 people, of which 84% were BASC members; hardly representative of the UK one might say. And lost of people did. Do your maths and a simple calculation suggests that even if all non-members said shooting didn’t improve their social life, 7% of BASC members completing the survey agreed with them. Even my schoolboy son worked that out (thank you Eddie). The original tweet has now been deleted, but you can still see the survey results online at: http://ow.ly/4GEQ306xub4

    Getting back to some of your comments against dumbing down by the “green-blob” then I too have noted this trend. “Vote for Bob” and “Build it and they will come” are two of my favourite examples. The notion of “targeting those who had never even heard of the word ‘nature’… [and] those in socio-economic classes ‘lower’ than your own?” is typical, as is their attempts to expand their membership “to engage those who had no idea what ‘nature’ meant”… or is the real reason to maintain a healthy income stream from new members? But what nature and for who?

    To further unpack the sentence on ancient woodlands being destroyed, then that may be true if being uprooted for development or farmland, but hardly the case if by high winds or chalara. The latter are examples of natural processes and any wood affected and left alone to recover on its own without the “helpful” intervention from RSPB or WT members wielding chainsaws and billhooks will be better for it. Non-intervention management or “rewilding” (and you know I don’t necessarily like the word) is a difficult sell for the nature NGOs simply because it doesn’t allow well-meaning members to get out and nature garden. It’s a difficult sell to the land management community (farming and game interests) because it implies a retrograde step back, relinquishing control and allowing nature to control its own destiny. This you cannot dumb-down.

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