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Eating the elephant


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Ronan's report

Sunday, 20th December 2009

If the Copenhagen debacle has achieved anything, it's highlighted the extent to which climate change has comprehensively hijacked every other ecological agenda. Whether you're a warming believer or not, it's hard to ignore the fact that it's subsumed many of the other important discussions about conserving and protecting our environment. Just imagine what might have been possible with a tenth, or even a fiftieth, of Copenhagen's resources diverted to tiger conservation, for example; think about how many miles of trout stream banks can be restored with the money it takes to fly a single president or prime minister and his entourage to take part in talks like these. We're so obsessed with Being Part Of The Discussion that we've lost sight of the fact that there are still problems that we can actually fix, in ways that make a real difference.

Anglers are among the few groups of people on the planet who consistently make that difference. We get dam projects blocked, sometimes; we restore those fragile waterways, we raise money for restocking programs. And critically, we alert the world to problems as they occur – pollution incidents, fish-farming hazards, poachers. Sometimes, they seem like small achievements. But seen as a whole, they look like huge victories compared to the selfish and self-aggrandising blatherings of our politicians.

In the UK, we've suffered our share of environmental disasters and lost our share of indigenous wildlife. But hard work on small pieces of the puzzle have paid off handsomely. Otters are back in numbers in most of the rivers I fish in southern England; water vole populations are recovering. Small victories, but important ones in which anglers played a big part. Funding and resourcing for these efforts becomes harder as everyone's focus switches exclusively to climate change – clearly the biggest issue of all, but equally clearly the one that we can do little or nothing about. Eating the whole elephant is always going to be difficult; but nibbling on parts of it is eminently manageable. I know what I'm doing for dinner.


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