Ever since I took my first call from the letters Editor at The Times in 1999, I’ve fallen into writing about environmental stuff people often don’t want to write about.
Hedgehog populations, horsemeat, sea eagles, badgers, raptor conflict, deer, fungi hunters, little owl culls, wildfires, alien conifers, duck shooting, urban foxes, National Parks, indoor livestock, pesticides, flooding tensions, ash dieback (five), midge diets, bees tidal energy etc. – more here…
Short letters are hard to write. Very hard. Keeping them pithy, pertinent and peculiar is key to being published. As the subjects are often primary ‘industries’ – farming, forestry, wildlife conservation – the complexity of the issues can be a head-fry. Spotting a different angle on the subject helps – as I tipped to this farming magazine.
It’s a new world comms now. Slickly framed press releases are spoon-fed directly into media inboxes. There’s less time for journalists to be curious, inquisitive or even check information. It can be easier to bleach out nuance > reduce > headline it > publish and be damned.
(and not bother to change an incorrect picture).
Are we afraid today of putting our heads above the parapet? Do we fear being perceived as a skeptic? Too inconveniently inquisitive, disrupting a popular narrative? Perceived to break ranks from partisan views, dare to question tribal groupthink?
“A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier” H L Mencken
And that’s before today’s social media [I managed a Mencken quote in a Guardian letter on diets – now somewhat jaundiced in face of the govt response to the Food Strategy in 2022]
Bravely to the keyboard
Be brave. Be curious. Be glad newspapers still insist on a name and address (they don’t publish your full details) – though they might contact you to check details, meaning, spelling etc (as in anaerobic, not aerobic here).
After 22 years of scribbling, I note many of the subjects are topical today. Some of my past letters dismay me now*. But in the spirit of Aldo Leopold, who continually critically revised his opinions, I’m open to changing my mind while now seeking fresh ways to broker dialogue.
Our lifespans are no more than a shifting baseline of recurring and new thoughts – make some of yours count. Freethinking rocks. Go write a letter!
ps I’m chuffed this conservation scientist took inspiration to pen this letter on a controversial subject.