conservation PHOTOGRAPHEr & Environmental writer
Will the Rewilding Brandname Protect the UK Beaver from Future Conflict?
For voluntary non-profit wildlife organisations to effectively combat the overwhelming damage caused by the private for-profit sector they have had to become financially motivated. But how does their new rhetoric affect our British wildlife?
Unconscious incompetence is when you don't even know what you don't know. This severe state of ignorance is often caused by a blind acceptance of popular beliefs or the mundane. This position, in turn, can be shaped by something as simple as a word.
For example, the meaning of the word "weed" is commonly accepted but can actually mask all sorts of hidden connotations and beliefs. On the surface it means a plant growing in the wrong place. But who decides what those plants are and where is the wrong place to grow?
You might think these questions don't matter, but the answers can impact our biodiversity, affect the integrity of our food web and ultimately jeopardise humanity's ability to thrive.
Stinging nettles are one such plant that is commonly regarded as a weed. Gardeners spray them, farmers top them and local councils strim them. We strive with great vigour to rid the planet of this stinging weed.
However, in the UK, the Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and Painted Lady butterflies all rely on nettles at some point in their life cycle. The removal of such weeds now means that "3/4 of British butterflies are in decline." Thus weakening the food web and our security.
It takes someone with knowledge and clout to reshape our understanding of a word. #DavidAttenborough extolled the importance of nettles for the survival of butterflies and now nettles are no longer a weed. They represent a lifeline to endangered species and are a symbol of environmental responsibility.
Unfortunately, when there is something to be gained, words and the beliefs they create, are easy to manipulate. Red and grey squirrels, for example, are physically and behaviourally very similar.
Yet somehow, we now regard the former as a national treasure whilst believing the latter is a pest. Are such opposing beliefs really credible or have we been made to believe that?
The Forestry Commission is a driving force in all things squirrel as they own and manage much of their habitat. Presently, they are strong advocates of the red squirrel but they used to belong to the #HighlandSquirrelClub, who between 1903-1946, killed 102,000 red squirrels for being pests.
The reality is that the FC has always regarded all squirrels as pests as they strip bark from trees. However, The Highland Squirrel Club used to pay them for each red squirrel tail but now generous grants can be gained for killing grey squirrels. It only takes the repeated use of words such as #native, #endangered and #alienspecies to redirect public support and grants.
It is with some trepidation, therefore, that I hear that beavers are to be re-introduced into the #ForestofDean in Gloucestershire. They went extinct 400 years ago due to over-exploitation for their fur. They are now being marketed as a natural flood defence system and part of the #rewilding effort.
But what happens when this now alien species escapes from the local area, fells too many of the Forestry Commissions' trees or prolifically breeds upsetting the ecosystem? Will we be blindly led by those with ulterior motives to accept the relabelling of this paragon of rewilding into a pest or an invasive alien species?
Appreciating nature for its own intrinsic values would of course bypass whatever latest commercial use is being endorsed. This would then remove the ability for organisations to manipulate our sentiments into line with their commercial needs. To protect our #wildlife, it is therefore important to understand how we are being used.