Friday 20 April 2018

Diving into doing things differently for nature

'April showers are one thing, but sometimes Mother Nature springs less seasonal surprises upon us'. Photo: PA
'April showers are one thing, but sometimes Mother Nature springs less seasonal surprises upon us'. Photo: PA

Fionna O'Connell

April showers are one thing, but sometimes Mother Nature springs less seasonal surprises upon us, pouring cold water on our attempts to make a splash. Because how about this for a sign of our tempestuous times? A sponsored swim in this town's weir swimming pool, in aid of the River Community Trust's plans to repair damage done to it during the ferocious floods of a few years back, had to be cancelled at the last minute, when fresh floods hit the town. Meaning all bets - and river bathing - were off.

But though the spirits of all involved were undoubtedly dashed - rather than satisfyingly splashed - they refused to sink entirely. For the event finally took place recently, and went swimmingly.

Which is heartening, given all the hard work that is going into repairing and protecting the weir from further deterioration. For this is one of those far-sighted schemes that lifts the term 'community project' above its occasionally twee associations with flower planting of public areas for the sake of appearances - all while damaging the wider environment by spraying those same hot house plants with weed killer that destroys eco-essential insects, such as bees, as well as bird life.

Thankfully, many of us are realising that the survival of our fellow creatures - great and small as well as creepy crawly - is connected to our own chances of continuing. Which is very much evident in the compassionate cop-on of this venture. For it stresses the need to protect not just human interests, but also those of other species that call this river habitat their home.

Because you don't need to be a scientist to detect the decline in wildlife and the general landscape thanks to decades of so-called development and the increasingly implausibly termed 'progress.' Many around these rural parts lament the changes for the worst that they have witnessed since their childhoods. Birds they no longer hear or see, including once common types, and certainly not in the numbers they once were. Hares, hedgehogs and other little creatures whose presence were once taken for granted but which are now a rarity to glimpse.

From birds to blooms, like the charming cowslip, more and more are missing from the picture. As I was reminded last autumn, when I met two locals while out for a walk. They were discussing the dire situation with both the hazelnuts one had hoped to gather and the fishing that the other had planned to pursue.

So maybe it's past time that we swapped worried whispers about the state of our world for speaking up and seeking a solution. Now the year is still in its sprightly spring, shouldn't we forget tentatively dipping in a toe and instead dive into doing things differently?

Sunday Independent

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