Saturday, 22 April 2017

Earth Day

In 1969, a massive oil-spill off the Californian coast inspired the first Earth Day on 20th April 1970. In the words of its founder Gaylord Nelson, it is "designed to activate individuals and organisations to strengthen the collective fight against man's exploitative relationship with the planet". It also coincides with the year I first read Paul Ehrlich's seminal book 'The Population Bomb', which changed the direction of my life, and that of many others.  No treatise of this kind can ever be total correct, and the 'The Population Bomb' is no exception, but it alerted many to the importance of environmental issues, and helped to bring the increase of the human population into the forefront of the debate. The environmental movement has come a long way since then, but the population of the planet continues to increase out of control, and in reality we are losing the war.

As a mark of respect for Earth Day, I must not drive today. It's a long walk of penance to reach a secluded wet spot in the far corner of our common where I find grasshopper warblers each year. Even though I can hear the reeling song, it's always difficult to pin them down. I'm first convinced it's away in a dense copse, but eventually find it no more than 20 yards away singing in the open, and it's very easy to think there's more than one. The soft repeated drawn-out rattling sound, more like a cicada than a bird, seems to come from different directions and unless it moves, it can be impossible to find. It's well worth being patient and even though often described as a small brown warbler, there are subtle dark olive greens on its back, and the colour of its soft pale buff throat is delightful.

After living here for so long, I'm amazed to find a newly marked footpath. Wet underfoot, a world of dense scrub leads to an isolated five-barred gate and I could be nowhere else but Britain. Leaning over the gate, I marvel at the landscape we've unconsciously created, and wonder what will be here after another four decades of Earth Days.

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