I thought I could get away with it. Remain objective, unemotional even, coolly and scientifically detached about change in the countryside. But I was wrong.
It was working on an interview with Professor Tim Benton that fried my head. The enormity and range of issues. All at the same time rewiring our brains to communicate in new online ways while navigating a febrile post-Brexit, Covid-fallout and climate-anxious era.
When did you last buy a newspaper? That’s why I refer to the Gutenberg press. When printed words on paper replaced spoken words. Paper words are now usurped by online comms based around flashed-up articles, soundbites, deleted tweets and software algorithms.
This is our ‘Gutenberg moment’ as we embark on huge change across society.
No landscape is perfect for every human purpose or wildlife species at one given time – especially under glare of smartphone snapshotRY
This speed of progress and communication evolution, is breathtaking for primary industries used to slower thinking for the long-term. I went to a hill farmer’s funeral a few years back. “Rob” he said “I’ve ploughed every field you can see in the valley”. His wife died last week.
‘Every field for food, every tree for trenches, every rural hand to work’.
That generation is passing, as society sets new demands and policy drives change. The ‘Post-it’ above of the “farmhouse kitchen table”, is a tough journey for multi-generational businesses of any ilk.
My father, a lifetime forester for the Forestry Commission in Cumbria, Argyll and Gwynedd, planted acres of softwood plantations in line with government timber policy. Before then pioneering the introduction of Continuous Cover Forestry to the UK – see new comment under this blog.
Mourn and move on
This is not about keeping the status quo.
But about celebrating, acknowledging and even mourning, those who undertook land use and management practices in a different era before today’s urgent requirements.
However easy it is to lambast on social media, red in tooth and tribe, spare a moment for primary industry livelihoods and mentalities at the sharp end of the environmental frontline.
Human, not just evidence, based
I thought that by burying myself in providing a science page to help share knowledge, alongside producing 60 sec vlogs to get people think differently about topical issues, I could remain insulated from the ‘effects of transition’.
But it’s not easy. I see it in my father, local farmers in the pub, foresters online. Hot emotion runs deeper than cold science – as this direct message to me via Twitter demonstrates.
“Our people, language and culture are being wiped out by people from elsewhere with no understanding of the issues feathering their own nests to our great cost … it is really adversely affecting my people …. the people I’m here to serve”a rural chaplain
Nudge, chew and graft
This is going to be hard graft. It’s important to say this. While not overwhelm those wanting to, and ready to, adapt.
‘What’s good for farming may not be good for farmers’.
Even those not ready. Helping rural parish meetings recover from online shouting. Removing rose-tinted glasses to make room for techy vertical farm narratives. Urge media-savvy influencers to resist leveraging one land use against another. Nudge nuance into the open. Tolerate alternative viewpoints on land use options.
I’m still chewing on the Benton interview. My upcoming Juniper in-depth two-part podcast (live on 16th and 23rd Nov 21) covers food, farming, raptors, badgers, beavers, people. It will test how we navigate these issues, tolerate disruption of the status quo and each other, while seeking to keeping those who need to be in the room, in the room.
Addendum – this 5x14min BBC series on Death of Nuance is defo worth a listen (‘pick a side’!)