Sunday, 23 August 2009
Under Threat From Nature
It seems it isn't just me - the butterfly mania has spread to Radio 4. The programme Nature reported last week on the wonderful success of the reintroduced Large Blue - warning: this link contains an image of Brett Westwood, a man whose face was truly made for radio. Then, very early this morning, as I lay reluctantly awake, I was delighted to hear an edition of The Living World devoted to the very rare but recovering Heath Fritillary - don't worry, this link contains only a butterfly image. What struck me in both reports was that each species was endangered not by man's intervention but by man's ceasing to intervene to maintain the particular manmade environment essential to the species' wellbeing. It was when grazing was cut back that nature reasserted itself and threatened to drive the butterflies out (in the case of the Large Blue, it succeeded). Yet another exposure - if any were needed - of the romantic myth (pure 'spilt religion') that nature exists in a paradisal stasis until evil man comes along and ruins everything. What we take to be unspoilt natural landscape is, in a country like ours, entirely manmade - and in most other parts of the world this is nearly the case. We owe the survival of so many of our most precious butterflies - so dependent on very precisely constituted micro-environments - to human intervention, in particular in the form of woodland management and grazing. When man withdraws, these species come under threat - from nature. As Blake put it, 'Without Man, Nature is barren.'