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Ronan's report

Sunday December 2nd, 2007

We all know things are getting worse, right? Global warming is a real threat to just about everything population pressures are increasing and economic development in China and India is just getting rolling. What we call nature is in for some tough times ahead. Conservation groups are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to preserving areas of unspoiled country. Even the oceans are being depleted at a terrifying rate.

My back yard. I love it, but there's really not much that is 'natural' about this scene, for one thing, where have all the Moa's gone?

It seems to me that the idea of 'nature' changing fast. By now, for a lot of people, it means a kind of theme park. We don't live in it or even with it, we drop in for a visit it to enjoy the good old days for a while, then we return to the 'real' world. But even what we call natural has changed dramatically over the 20th Century. And when you think about it, 'nature' has been changing for as long as humans have walked the earth upright, and for that matter was undergoing relentless change for something like 4 or 5 billion years before that. Billion. That's either a thousand million or a million millions depending on which way you count, but either way it's a fecking long time. It makes me think that old Mother Nature might shrug us off the planet with no more thought than she gave to the trilobyte.

What we usually refer to as nature is a romantic idea of an unspoiled garden, Utopia, or Eden if you like, where all the animals are happy as Larry and everybody is getting along in harmony, everything's just peachy. This would be your vegetarian utopia I guess. An idea incorporated into this is that humans should fit in too, as if we didn't somehow. There's a Judeo-Christian myth that we screwed things up and from that point things got tough for us.

If you take the scientific view, the human-friendly environment is not much more than a couple of million years old. In other words, when things became good for us we really got going. Humans know how to recognise an opportunity and we started modifying our environment as soon as we got a handle on fire and weapons. And we haven't stopped since. By now, most of the people on the planet don't live in a 'natural' setting, at least not if we use the romantic meaning for nature.

This idea of living 'naturally' has a lot of appeal, but anyone can see it's not very practical in a world of over six billion people. The best we can hope for is maybe to maintain a connection with wilderness, with our hunting past. Fly fishing is good for that but it certainly isn't 'natural'. Many people don't think of fly fishing in this way anyway. For them it's a sport or a pastime, even a game. It's sociable, good fun and goes a long way to making you feel good about your life. So we don't want to get too preachy about the purity and spirituality of the sport. A sound materialistic attitude toward what you think is valuable and adds some pleasure to your life isn't a bad way to go. We don't want to stick our head in the sand about the state of the world, but we should enjoy what we have while we still have it. Some things are worth fighting for but we might keep in mind that most of our fellow humans don't care if our favourite trout stream has didymo in it.


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