Do you remember when birds twittered? Do you recall those innocent days when a tweet was something you might receive from your friendly neighbourhood thrush or blackbird, with occasional harsher interjections from marauding rooks and starlings? Now those two simple words have been taken over by the modern world of technology and social media; meaning and nuance have been altered. For many folk “tweeting” now has more to do with the self-centred ramblings and inane trivia of celebrities and on-line “friends”. News broadcasts and newspapers build stories around instantaneous opinions and responses from social media, which this writer for one finds unutterably tedious and shallow. Reflection and judgement are lost to instant opinion and fashion.
The implications of this trend towards the immediate and the trivial are huge. Are we becoming obsessed with the present? Do you think of ten years ahead as a long way away or as the day after tomorrow? It matters because the more we are beguiled by the immediate and the instant, and the more we are seduced by public opinion rather than private judgement, the less likely we are to be in a position to take responsibility for the impact our society is having on the wider web of life and the long-term future of the planet. Modern human society is making us lose touch with Nature, from which we came and of which we remain a part.
With over half the world’s people now living in cities, there is an inevitable and increasing detachment of most humans from Nature. Too many of us no longer see the stars because of the permanently lit urban night sky. We are physically separated from the production of the food we eat, and from the impact of our waste rubbish and effluent on distant habitats that we never visit. We do not feel able to challenge the social and educational norms that unthinkingly place human rights ahead of the rights of non-human animals and plants – if we even believe they have any rights at all. As a society we have moved so far backward as to believe that Nature is there to be conquered and used to serve man’s needs.
Quite when mankind ceased to be part of Nature and became its overlord is something I invite Star readers to ponder and explain. Perhaps when our ancestors emerged from the sea to become land-based creatures? Or was it when the dinosaurs died out and created something of a power vacuum that our small, furry mammalian forefathers could slowly exploit over the next 65 million years? Perhaps it was when homo sapiens separated from the other great apes and became a distinct species? No, friends, you and I are still part of Nature and still need it.
At Cabragh Wetlands we recognize that children have an innate affinity with the natural world, connecting instinctively to what they find when they dip in the pond or turn over a crumbling log pile. That connection must be nourished and sustained into adulthood and shape how we approach the socio-economic world of employment and mortgage. My New Year’s resolution is to pay more attention to the proper kind of twittering.