Is Environmental Education Ruining Nature For Me?

Things have been a little quiet on Adventures in Conservation recently (I know, I know, this has obviously had a devastating impact on you all, for which I can only apologise. I can only hope your Christmas was not ruined pondering just what the hell had happened to me). For the last month or so, I’ve been getting to grips with some new nature reserves and areas of woodland to monitor and manage, so my hands have been a tad full. But it was while wandering one of these sites that I finally felt a surge of inspiration to propel another aimless missive into the void.

Recently I’ve been questioning whether an environmental education – or working in the sector – ruins one’s enjoyment of the nature. I’m beginning to suspect I was better of ignorant and happy. As such, this week my walk around one of the new (old), spangly (muddy) areas of woodland under my dominion followed a familiar pattern:

Ah, Compartment 1. Management plan says Ancient semi-natural woodland. Lot of cherry laurel in here, bit of bloody Rhododendron too – we’ll need to get that bugger cut, treated and cleared. Not sure we can afford that.

Rhodi

Bah!

Comp. 1a – Glade: Well, it might have been a glade once upon a time. When was this last cut? It’s scrubbed over. Bugger. Chalk it up as a volunteer task.

Comp. 2: Management plan says there is a excellent display of bluebells here in early summer. I bet they’re bloody Spanish.

Comp. 3: ‘Local volunteers have been working to cut back encroaching woodland into the meadow area’…Gods, need to teach them to cut back to ground-level. Place is a trip hazard!

Comp 4: Coppice. Lapsed. Do we have the man power/volunteer will to bring this back into rotation? Probably not.

Comp 5: Secondary woodland. Backs on to housing. Green waste over the garden fence. We’ll have to have a word.

Crassula

Gah!

Comp 5a – Pond: Shopping Trolley. Overhanging vegetation on all side. Is that Crassula? Oh bugger, that is crassula.

And on and on and on. It’s possible that learning more about nature – or perhaps more specifically, getting overwhelmed by management plans, habitat designations, schedule of works etc. etc. – has taken the joy out of it all for me. Or, to quote someone much better at this stuff than I: “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

Or something like that. Perhaps I should just stop being such a curmudgeon. After all, this week I have been paid to – amongst other things – fall in a stream, plant trees, cut trees down, burn things, peer into hedgerows, and generally gad about making a nuisance of myself in a picturesque woodland. Things could be a lot worse. I once boxed cheese for a living.