Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A green and pleasant land.

George Monbiot wants to rewild Britain (and everywhere else). As Caitlan Moran just pointed out: what's not to love about this plan? You just deregulate the green bits and let nature transform conservations into wildernesses. With elephants. And mastodons. Hell yes.

This is all well and good if you care about this sort of thing, but for those of us who never go anywhere that's not within 20 minutes walk of a Sainsbury's, the thought of real wilderness right here in the UK is actually a bit scary. I mean, the whole point of England is that you don't have to worry about this kind of thing - we got rid of any creature capable of more than a light scratching centuries ago, so we don't have to ever stay up at night with dreams of being trampled by buffalo or bitten by toxic critters with more than four legs. This is one of the best things about Britain, and it makes the prospect of going abroad all the more exciting. In other lands, according to our imagination, you can hardly move for vicious reptiles and unpredictable large mammals. They're there to visit if you're ever curious. Thank god.

Indeed, if such beasts were to return to our shores, the populace would be so unprepared to deal with them that mass panic would surely ensue. 99% of headlines would instantly become something like "baby dragged from crib by giant sloth, found badly licked" or "elk beaten to death by confused mob". Unlike those of America or Australia, British children are not raised with a working knowledge of how to react to bear or crocodile sightings. The presence of these creatures would only make us a danger to ourselves.

The other thing that concerns me about the rewilding idea is that it implicitly attacks the kind of nature we already have in the UK. Personally, I love Britain's nature - it's boring enough to be a) not remotely dangerous and b) not something you feel you have to visit very often, and when you do visit, it's the perfect kind of nature for brooding and feeling cynical - a vital part of maintaining our national psyche. The British idea of a good bit of countryside is a featureless expanse of moorland with nothing but ugly, gnarled heather bushes across some scraggy contours. Maybe throw in a few large boulders if you're feeling excitable. Either that or some featureless rolling hills with short, wispy grass and a nice view over a bleak grey sea and biting, gale-force winds assaulting you from every direction. This is the kind of nature we all know and love. So it's distressing to see Monbiot's followers explicitly attacking it, or Monbiot himself insisting that it needs to go.

While elephants and sabre tooth tigers are undoubtedly awesome, so are giant death robots. My point is, some awesome stuff is better experienced at a distance, preferably from another continent. Keep Britain tame and miserable, please: that's the way I like it.

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