There is a lot of talk recently about continuous cover forestry, timber plantations and development of native woodlands. I had an opportunity to explore the subject with my guest, Forestry Inspector and Fire Management Officer in the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, Ciaran Nugent. In my opinion, this is one of the most educational episodes of the podcast. During our conversation, we talk about the history of Irish forestry, its current direction, wildlife conservation and the delicate balance between plants and animals in the environment. We also spend some time discussing fires, their role in an ecosystem and fire prevention.
There is a lot of buzz, at the moment, around the activist group called Extinction Rebellion. The group is organizing direct action campaigns and acts of civil disobedience in a protest against governmental inaction on climate change and disappearing wildlife.
As concerned as I am about the environment and wildlife I have mixed feelings about that group and their actions. So let me break it down for you.
I do recognize the role of such campaigns in environmental advocacy. Showing dissatisfaction about governmental inaction has its place in democracy. It can raise awareness of an issue in the minds of the general public. However, actions like these don’t make a difference on their own. In addition, they can give ammunition to the opponents, making it easy to label legitimate NGOs, lobbying for the cause, as “extremist”. That is especially true, if peaceful demonstrations deteriorate into vandalism resulting in arrests and disruption of public order. That just annoys people.
Unfortunately, that turn of events is quite likely, when the group behind the campaign has a strong anarchist background. And that’s exactly the case with Extinction Rebellion. Their leaders actually speak openly about their previous involvement in the anarchist community in Britain. It is also hard to miss their carefully curated, parallel media campaigns and personal attacks on public figures to push a socialist political agenda. All that makes me question the real motivation behind their actions. Do they really care about the environment? Or are they merely puppets in the hands of higher level political actors, used to rally unsuspecting people to create confusion and weaken the political structure?
Because of these questions, I was deeply concerned to see a reputable conservation organization and even a political party getting behind such events. We should exercise great care to make sure we’re not helping push hidden agendas that would work against our cause in the long run.
As always, I welcome discussion and I am curious about your thoughts on the issue. I would be more than happy to be corrected. So if you would like to be my guest on the podcast and have a conversation on the subject, please get in touch. Leave your comment or contact me through the social media channel of your choice, and let’s talk.
This is a big one. Our guest, Pádraic Fogarty is the Campaign Officer at Irish Wildlife Trust and an ex-editor of the Irish Wildlife magazine. Protection and conservation of the natural world should be of the greatest importance for all outdoorsmen. For that reason, I was really excited when Pádraic accepted an invitation to the podcast. If you care about the environment, tune in and listen. We are talking not only about key conservation issues but also how to get involved and make a difference. This is not tree hugging stuff, this is a practical and down to earth discussion about the protection we all owe to Mother Nature. Also, check out Pádraic’s book “Whittled Away – Ireland’s Vanishing Nature”.
While recording episodes of the podcast I get to meet and speak with people involved in the outdoors. Most of them are interested in the use and preservation of the natural environment. Among those people two distinct groups stand out the most: sportsmen, most often represented by hunters and anglers, and ecologists as in conservationists and environmentalists. In theory, they should represent one consistent front for protection of the natural environment. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Oftentimes representatives of these groups are involved in a counterproductive confrontation with each other. So, let’s dive into this issue and try to understand some of the reasons why this is happening.
For starters, let’s look at the common ground they share. Genuine ecologists are usually research scientists or employees of governmental or non-governmental bodies involved in the protection and management of natural resources. Of course we all know there are self proclaimed, shouty types, but I’m not going to talk about them here. Whenever I have an opportunity to talk to environmentalists I always ask the question, “Do you see sportsmen as allies in the efforts to protect the environment or as adversaries?” Based on the responses so far, I gather that sportsmen are mostly recognized as important stakeholders. Ecologists also recognize that they are an invaluable source of information about the state of the environment. It is because hunters and anglers spent lots of time in the outdoors and have an opportunity to observe nature and the changes it undergoes over time. They are often referred to as the boots on the ground.
Sportsmen also recognize the important role of ecologists as a source of information about wildlife and the environment. They also recognize that ecologists work to protect the resources they interact with. Wild game and fish. And here is where the tension starts. Ecologists often feel that sportsmen repeatedly engage in practices aimed mainly at their own interest, to the detriment of conservation. For example, when engaging in catch and release, they place more importance on taking a trophy photo with the fish over promptly releasing it back to the water. On the flip side, on many occasions sportsmen consider some of the regulations as limiting their activities unnecessarily.
It is not my intention to judge which side is right. Each case is different and everybody makes mistakes. Unfortunately, as the result of these tensions, the opportunity to create a combined, strong and environmentally minded front is lost. Sportsmen are often reluctant to engage in conservation initiatives worried that their interest won’t be recognized and they will find themselves on the wrong side of the equation. On the other hand, ecologists are reluctant to reach out to sportsmen for support, being afraid of a backlash.
It is my strong belief that true hunters and anglers are also environmentalists and conservationists. It is in their own interest, after all, that the waters are full of fish and the woods are full of wild game. In fact, there are many people who belong to both groups. It is not unheard of for a game and wildlife officer to also be an avid hunter or angler. These days, the natural environment is under more pressure from human activity than ever before. Only combined efforts to protect it can be successful. Sportsmen, ecologists, environmentalists and anybody else to whom nature is dear, should pull together. They should bury the discord about the way they intend to use it, and work together to protect it. Otherwise there will be nothing left to use anyway.