Futures Forum: We're losing touch with nature
Guardian correspondent Patrick Barkham suggests how we can reconnect with nature - and having a child around seems to help:
Butterfly on the steal
My five-year-old daughter has a butterfly net. “I’m fed up with boring old meadow browns,” she declared this morning. “I want to catch a fritillary.” Butterfly collecting is about as socially acceptable as smoking in a tube carriage while refusing to vacate your seat for a pregnant woman. It’s also illegal to catch rare species. So her net-work is closely monitored to ensure she releases everything unharmed and doesn’t wield her net beyond our garden. Bizarrely, a few oddballs still collect butterflies. Last week swallowtail caterpillars and their rare foodplant were stolen from Hickling Broad nature reserve, near us. My daughter has an alibi – school – but I hope the net closes in on the man (it’s always men) who hasn’t.
Watch out, beavers about
One hot new summer holiday activity is beaver-spotting. I joined families last week gathered at dusk by the river Otter, where beavers are thriving in a Devon Wildlife Trust trial to assess if they should be permanently returned to England. No one knows anything about beavers – “Do they eat fish?” everyone asks – and that’s fine, because they haven’t lived here for around 400 years.
Otters are on this river too, but they are no fun: you catch a fleeting glimpse of these elusive carnivores at best. By contrast, beavers are herbivores and move through the water with the tranquillity of cows grazing a meadow. Baby beavers (kits) paddle like aquatic guinea pigs.
There’s some concern over hordes of beaver-tourists but if I were a local business, I’d beaver about offering parking, postcards and cuddly representations of these adorable, easy-to-enjoy wild animals.
Here’s why every capitalist should connect with nature | Patrick Barkham | Opinion | The Guardian