Friday, 6 April 2007

What price a love of the countryside

I know that I am far from being alone in my love of the countryside; like me, many others delight in the complexity and beauty of the natural world. There is so much to take in, as a myriad of animals and plants go about their daily lives. A recent letter, from EDP reader June Clarke, brought this home to me just the other day. The letter described some of the scenes witnessed on June’s walks down quiet country roads and there, bubbling to the surface of her prose, was an effervescent passion for the world about her. Like me, she is in awe of what she sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches.

It is very difficult to put a value on the enjoyment that we take from nature and, perhaps, it is wrong to even suggest that a value can be attributed to such bounty, so freely given. From a personal perspective, I find it very sad that some people do try to put a price on our wildlife and the environment within which it lives. The harsh realities of modern day economics may be the currency of our planners and policy makers but should they be allowed to price the countryside and its wildlife? Look at the figures quoted for land in this part of England – the same area of countryside may fetch twenty-times its value for residential use as it does for farmland. Yet, which provides the greater benefit for wildlife; high-density housing or mixed farming? I think you know the answer. To me, this illustrates the point that attempts to value the countryside are flawed, heavily biased by our blinkered view of the world as being there just for us. We are one species of many, all dependent and inter-dependent on the other forms of life that live alongside us. Should we, therefore, be allowed to claim it as our own?

While some may be willing to ask “what price an acre of wildflower meadow?”, it strikes me that we should resist such efforts, arguing that such things are, in reality, priceless. The countryside has an intrinsic and, in my mind, immeasurable value; a value that reflects its worth to the whole community of life that lives within it. Perhaps it is our inbuilt arrogance as a species, that means we so often look at the world around us purely from our own selfish perspective.

They say that you do not realise how much you truly value something until it is taken away from you. Well, go out into the countryside this weekend, stand there and take it all in; then ask yourself “How much will I miss this when it is gone?”

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