2020 – a big year to face up to some rocky issues, explore new ground while avoiding going down rabbit holes.
Last year has been large for many. Too obvious to name, but here’s an eclectic take on past and future issues to kick off the year.
- Most unexpected poll result – after my talk at a rewilding conf – it’s beaver hats for rewilders! There’s more in common if we sidestep ideological rabbit holes.
‘Beavers need to be managed. If dams are in the wrong place, kick them out – celebrate the beneficial ones’
2. Are we too purist over tree species? This tweet – treating woodland as “just another seasonal upland crop at harvest time”.
3. My most acerbic letter in The Times on the subject of trees (While also chuffed to reach 120 published letters since 1999).
4. Influencer opinion – this article, with exclusive quotes, on the transition away from lead shot seemed to garner traction. A matter better nudged from within the shooting community – news to come!
5. My most complex blog – lessons learnt over a 25 year upland demo project between the RSPB, GWCT, Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England. Grouse shooting is a subject of rabbit holes too oft little to do with
wildlife conservation, environment, or local people but more about animal rights, value judgements, and political leverage. Yes, serious change is required but smarter social science and tougher regs (mediated grit, burning) are more useful than pointed-stick warfare-based campaigns.
6. Oddest phone calls – “Will you cook grey squirrel live on Jeremy Vine Channel 5?” and “Can you talk about trophy hunting on Turkish TV with Born Free Foundation?” (A short work trip in Namibia, alongside a conversation with a man from the UN, informed me of some of the on-the-ground relevant issues).
7. Newly learned skill – chairing conferences is like conducting. Containing repetitive loud voices (tending towards ‘rabbit holes’): encouraging quiet informed ones (facing up to ‘rocks’) enables a wider range of views to be heard. Fleet-footed roving mics, no mission statements, and cabaret table layout (not rows of chairs) all help.
Rocks to think about and not avoid
8. Agro-chemicals – Rothamsted Research has warned of resistance by weeds to herbicides. Question your agronomist closely. Min till, zero till may/may not be the panacea but gear up to doing things differently to your predecessors. Look even closer at insecticide use.
9. Meat – read this Prof David Hughes interview. Listen to trends. They may not be a fad. But it need not be a threat if UK livestock farmers sell their story better. Not easy – as the UK is a highly urbanised selective, savvy society prone to rose-tinted glasses – but there’s room for indoor chicken, grass-fed beef, vertical veg, smarter sheep grazing, home-grown bacon, and onshore fish farms.
10. Trees – too simple. Too populist. Too purist. There’s plenty of potential for shelter belts, urban fringe forest, more planting bracken infested slopes planted with mixed conifers/broadleaves with less paperwork better lead by government policy. Oh, and look after hedges. Especially old ones.
12. Get out of your comfort zone – gather intelligence in the field from, or about, people or ideas outside your usual crowd – see this thread.
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