I do. When I was growing up, nature was something you appreciated for what it was. Something whose beauties you marvelled at and whose wonders you were taught to admire at school. You knew how to tell the difference between a smooth and a great crested newt; between a red admiral and a peacock; you studied the habitats of gall wasps; you counted worms; on nature walks you listened to the moan of doves in immemorial elms; you watched botany pwogwammes pwesented by a weally enthusiastic man who couldn’t pronounce his “rs” called David Bellamy.
This all came back to me when I read about Bellamy’s latest plan – under the auspices of the Conservation Foundation – to restore the English elm by planting 10,000 saplings. Grown from the cuttings of some of the few hundred apparently disease-resistant elms that remain in Britain, they will replace the victims of one of the greatest British ecological disasters of our lifetime: the Dutch elm disease which killed around 25 million trees and changed our landscape forever.
What a hero! And I don’t just mean regarding the elm. David Bellamy is the British equivalent to one of those dissident scientists they used to persecute in the Soviet Union for refusing to follow the acceptable political orthodoxy. In British science’s case, of course, that orthodoxy is Anthropogenic Global Warming. Cast doubt on AGW, as Bellamy has done, and you are considered anathema by the “scientific community”. This is why he lost his 15-year long presidency of the charity Plantlife and also why he was booted out of his job as president of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. You’ll notice he doesn’t get used an awful lot by the BBC these days either. Gee, I wonder why that could be.
Yet when it comes to loving the planet, Bellamy is the real deal. He cares so passionately about nature that he got himself arrested in 1983 for blockading the Franklin River in Australia to try to stop a proposed dam. In the Eighties, he did more than anyone on British television to communicate the joys of botany. This man genuinely believes what all naturalists should believe that nature is something to be cherished, preserved, and perhaps above all enjoyed. No doubt this is why is he is such a fierce opponent of wind farms on sites of natural beauty.
But how many scientists involved in the field of nature and conservation actually do think this way any more? Passing few. Look in the papers: almost every story involving nature you will ever read has been skewed to accommodate the prevailing meme that it’s all dying off due to climate change and it’s mostly our fault. Look at how the subject is now taught in schools: not “hello trees, hello sky” but “Eeek! We’re all doomed!”. Zoos are no longer jolly places for kids to gawp at unusual beasts while Johnny Morris does the amusing voiceover, but thinly disguised animal concentration camps; butterflies are no longer to be differentiated for all that really matters is that you know that species are in catastrophic decline thanks to ‘climate change (quite untrue incidentally: habitat loss plays a far more important role in this); nature is no longer a pleasure but a stick with which to beat ourselves because of our carbon emitting sins.
So three cheers for David Bellamy – unlike so many of the green movement’s hair-shirt miserabilists – a true lover of nature.
Three cheers too for the Conservation Foundation. If you’ve a second, go and visit its website and see some of the things it does. (Alright so there’s a bit of guff about ‘diversity’ but then, how else can a charity get on these days?). It has helped turn an old sewage treatment plant into a wildflower meadow; it has restored the roach to the Hampshire Avon; it tries to protect Britain’s ancient yews; it wants to preserve the large blue butterfly; now it’s bringing back the elm.
One of the more poisonous myths put about by the International Climate-Fear-Promotion Movement (prop: Al Gore) is that if you’re not with them, you must perforce be some kind of crazy, Gaia-raping, nature-hating scumbag in the pay of Big Oil. Bellamy is living proof that this just is not so. More power to his elbow!