Monday, 2 January 2012

Is it Natural? Naturally.

What do we mean by the word natural in the context of landscape and countryside and in particular the landscape of the moors around Sheffield? Those who want to lead us by the nose are fond of trying to use words in their own fashion and define them as suits their purpose. We’ve had plenty of evidence of this already from Sheffield Moors Partnership for instance in their use of words like ‘wild’ and even ‘wilderness’.
If you re-define words and phrases to suit your own agenda that helps to put you in control and get to decide what happens. So you tell people you’re in favour of Burbage being a ‘wild’ place and people think “ cor, yes I’ll agree to that – sounds great”. It then turns out – several years later – that you didn’t mean what they thought you meant: you actually want to control it using typical farming methods. Meanwhile most people have forgotten what you said originally and the focus has moved on. This is standard managerialist practice. Keep changing the rules and terms and move the goalposts around. Above all, move on.
Natural is another of these words. I complain that what they’ve done is unnatural – e.g. in cutting down trees and making sheep and cattle eat all the wild flowers and the response is, in effect: “Natural! Nowhere’s natural in this country.” This is the kind of sloganised response that is encouraged by Sheffield Wildlife Trust and their fellow conservation managers who don’t want intelligent discussion. Delving further into the dogma that delivers this kind of talk you soon come across the well-rehearsed statement that “all countryside is the product of human activity.” These statements should then lead to a dialogue, examining whether they are true and what are their implications, true or false. Instead they go the way of all dogma and sloganising, as intended: who shouts loudest and most often prevails.

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