Pathways and Barriers to Nature

Earlier this month Charles Clover wrote (The Sunday Times, 3 October 2010) :

Martyn Murray, author of a new book, The Storm Leopard, is an ecologist who learnt his trade in Africa. He went back to assess the truth of the prediction made by an old Kenyan in the 1970s: “You mark my words, they will all disappear one day. Every single wild place.” What drives modern agriculture and modern development, says Murray, is the foraging strategy adopted by man in the Pleistocene era: killing more than we need to survive. This part of human nature sees biodiversity as a pest. Recently another force has emerged — the human imagination responding to nature, which can both heal the wilderness and make it pay.

A man rightly associated with that feat of imagination is Dave Varty, whose family game reserve, Londolozi, in the Sabi Sand, became a successful model for Africa…  At Londolozi,  two sculpted elephant tusks point in the direction of Varty’s latest vision, a wilderness corridor that lets wildlife flow from the Kruger national park to the Blyde River Canyon reserve and beyond, creating an economic opportunity for the rural poor, who now have better houses and schools but still need jobs. When you read Professor Sir John Lawton’s report Making Space for Nature, about ways of halting the decline of biodiversity in England, you wonder whether we have anything like South Africa’s vision, or ability to make it pay.

Will Africa listen to Varty’s vision for a Cape-to-Cairo corridor for wildlife, providing spiritual renewal, adventure holidays and rural development for an otherwise overdeveloped planet? Will we find a way of connecting our fragmented wildlife in this country and turning it to gold, whether on land or in the sea? The choice is between attrition and imagination. It’s up to us.

Britain has a much higher human population density than most African countries which is one reason why we tend to protect small sites (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) rather than large National Parks (I’m talking about the IUCN Category I or II protected areas which essentially have no permanent inhabitants, not the unusual National Parks of UK which often have human settlements). Nevertheless there is a reluctance to develop the network of protected areas, at least in Scotland, which appears to derive from something else. Here the large empty spaces with their deer, salmon, grouse, forests and moorland are owned by estates and there is a gulf between the common man and the estate owner. The Scottish Government is attempting to bridge that gulf but it is a slow process. Meanwhile there is a deal of mistrust and it is one of the brakes on our vision.

About Martyn Murray

Martyn is a writer, sailor and conservationist. His first book, The Storm Leopard, is a journey across Africa and into the heart of the environmental crisis. His second book, Origin of Species: Bite-Sized, contains the essence of Charles Darwin's greatest work - his theory of evolution by natural selection - in a text that is 15% the length of the original. His third book, Beyond the Hebrides, is the story of a sea voyage in an old leaking boat beginning in an Irish creek and ending on the remote islands of St Kilda in the west of Scotland. It is a tale of romance and adventure which arises from one man's exploration of practical ways to keep personal freedom alive in today’s demanding society. Visit Martyn's website at Martyn was born and brought up in Ayrshire, Scotland and now lives in North Berwick. He went to school in Perthshire, and studied at the Universities of Edinburgh, Zimbabwe, Malaya and Cambridge for degrees in Zoology with field research into: shelduck along the Scottish coast; impala in the Zambezi Valley; wild figs and figwasps in the Malaysian forests; and wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. This work was underpinned by theoretical investigations into competition, conflict and social behaviour. Martyn is a consultant in biodiversity and natural resources management.
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1 Response to Pathways and Barriers to Nature

  1. Pingback: The Storm Leopard | Your #1 Source for Kindle eBooks from the Amazon Kindle Store!

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