Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Self Assessment

Funny old world it is with reality and virtuality fighting for dominance. Some of us, who lived much of our lives before the information and digital revolutions took over, still don’t fully get it. We struggle to accommodate our thinking to the change. We sort of know but are slow and clumsy and still somewhat disbelieving. Paperwork and presentational skills, marketing hype and being a step ahead in the game of spin are all parts of this virtualization as is getting the message across online and in the media - however much or little it reflects the reality.

But who cares about reality when you can achieve your goals by making things up and presenting it well. And the text of many presentations is written by people who are employed to do only that and have minimal contact with the material and process they’re describing. After all most people’s contact with wildlife is through the media in one form or another. If you're in a job where your business is being responsible for something on the ground like a national park or a nature reserve there's still a lot you can get away with by prioritisng the narrative that sounds good, tweaking the message, inflated claims and clever presentation skills; much of this can be accomplished with a minimum of resources devoted to the 'real work'. But then in this weird office world what is 'real'? The thought sometimes comes to me when writing this blog. But this is only a mild form of the disease when compared to the way the big players go about things.

These reflections follow reading the recent article by Mark Fisher, the revelation that Sheffield Wildlife Trust have been claiming money for work they've not done and the publication of EMP’s consultation document. In fact it’s everywhere and we had rather hoped that this place was a sanctuary. Even as we open the gate onto the moor we can't miss that notice telling us that “Highland Cattle are Grazing the Heathland of Blacka”. I wouldn’t know who wrote the words ‘crapping over’ as a substitute for ‘grazing’ but it was closer to reality than the virtual message of the original. Only one highland is there – the others are a mixed bag.

Mark’s article starts by telling us that The Peak District has won what I suppose must be called a “prestigious” diploma from the Council of Europe. The first paragraph of his article is a dry classic, ending as it does. For some of us self assessment is about filling in a tax form. Conservation people get to write their own script and then review it. Just imagine an author, film director or composer being given the chance to pen their own reviews with no independent voice being heard – leading of course to writing a cheque to yourself, something I’m beginning to think is commonplace in the conservation industry.

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