So what is ‘natural’?
I’ve just spent a long (but all too short) weekend in the North Yorkshire Moors with the family – staying in a converted barn we’ve stayed at several times before and generally mooching about. On Sunday, Harry, my eldest, and I went on an 8-mile hike covering high moor, farmed valley floor, plantation forest and old copse – quite a nice microcosm of what we think of as the English countryside.
Of these, my favourite was being up on the ‘wild’ moor (above) and the weirdest was the path through the dense plantation (below), with nothing growing under the pine trees.
Of course there’s more to all this than meets the eye. The plantation, while planted by man, is probably more ‘natural’ – ie requiring less human input – than the moor which takes intensive maintenance, including burning of heather, to maintain the dominant species, red grouse, which are basically farm animals. The fields in the valley would once have been deciduous woodland and the copse, as its name suggests, will have been maintained for generations to produce coppice wood.
Which begs the question – ‘what is natural’? And is ‘natural’ always better than unnatural? Back in the days when all of this landscape was in its natural state, human life was nasty, brutal and short.
As I’ve got older, I’ve grown to appreciate the real benefits we get from things I previously denigrated such as intensive agriculture, the pharmaceutical industry and, yes, capitalism – tempering my idealism with reality. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make the world a better, more sustainable place, rather that I accept that we are where we are – and its not all bad, rather than wrapping myself in nihilistic utopianism.
After all, life’s pretty good.