Friday, October 18, 2013

Growing Pains

When I was a child I had a great love of the countryside. I would go for long walks down the lanes, and across the meadows with my mates around the environs of Potters Bar. I particularly liked playing and exploring the local streams like "Bridgefoot" where in its clear running waters you would see shoal upon shoal of Sticklebacks, little fish we would catch in our nets, and take them home in jam jars to be re homed in our garden ponds. I particularly liked playing around and exploring the many small lakes and ponds, each brimming over with its own natural wildlife. It was easy to find lots of frogspawn, some of which, like the sticklebacks would find its way back to our garden pond. It was fascinating watching the little tadpoles slowly take form in their protective jelly, then hatching into the water, and  slowly growing legs while their bodies grew slowly plumper and their tails slowly retracting until at last they reached their destination of turning into properly formed frogs. They would then, after a while, struggle their way out of the pool and make off on their own to pastures new.
If I walked outside my garden gate and turned right and walked about a hundred yards, I could climb through the wire into what was affectionately known as the "cow field", although the cows of my very early youth disappeared to be replaced by horses from a riding club whose premises lay in a far flung corner of the field next to the main road, Mutton Lane. Just the  other side of the fence  was a small pond which was home to all sorts of water borne life, but of particular interest to me and my mates were the newts. There were various hinds of newts living here, and they were not uncommon. Some of these also found themselves living in my garden pond!
When I look back, there were ponds, clear streams, fields, woodlands and wildlife everywhere. Tragically, now, many of these places I loved and played in have vanished along with the wildlife they supported. The vast field near my house with its newt pond got redeveloped into a big housing estate. From the railway path, you could look up across the field and see my house standing proudly in its row as you walked to and from the shops. Not any more, just the bland view of the obscuring over-priced houses. Another bit of the field was swallowed up after they knocked down my old junior school to make way for more "badly needed" flats and rebuilt the school on the field, a mere shadow of the proud buildings where I received my primary education. The fields separating the northern and southern parts of Potters Bar were slowly consumed by more development, laying waste to the "sprat pond", another haven of wild life where my brother used to go. Of course, it goes without saying that this theme has gone on at an ever accelerating pace since my childhood and the landscape in many places has changed beyond recognition for the worse. And the cause of all this
I feel a great despair for this planet because us humans have blighted it with our presence and determination to breed beyond the limits of what the environment can support. The net result is the rapidly accelerating destruction of our countryside as the towns turn into cities and the cities keep expanding ever onwards swallowing up local villages and the land between the villages being redeveloped with endless new housing estates. Of course, all this puts additional pressure on the infrastructure, so more and more roads get built, more and more shopping centres spring up, more and more traffic on the roads, ever more power stations and wind farms have to be built, more and more pollution.....and so it goes on.
One of my favourite sci-fi films is "Blade Runner". It begins with a vision of a future where you don't see any countryside, everywhere you look is a vast multi-layered city towering up into the sky, while in the streets below people scurry around in a constant smog of pollution. My fear is that if we continue as we are, this is the kind of future we could be heading for unless there is a radical change in which we, as a species command our affairs.
As I see it, population growth is the most obvious factor driving all this, along with an economy which is ever seeking more and more growth, which in the long term cannot be anything but unsustainable. Look around where you live. Unless you are very fortunate there will not be any truly natural (primeval) countryside to be seen, its all being either farmed or redeveloped. On an aircraft flying across Europe earlier this year on my way to Hungary, I couldn't help but notice the landscape below which was all a patchwork of farm fields, with very little in the way of forest or open moorland to be seen. We are getting to the point where the only bits of the planet which are untouched by humans are those very remote and inhospitable places which, for the moment, we see as unfit for human habitation, but I believe even that will change. Of course, another outcome in all this is man's continued inhumanity to man, with wars and jaw dropping barbarism going on in untold spots around the globe, while millions starve and children live on the streets or out of cardboard boxes, scavenging among the city rubbish tips in the hope of finding something to keep a foothold on staying alive.
Clearly, the world needs to stop, step back, and realise that we cannot go on like this. Unless something is done to turn back the tide, our future on this planet is at best very grim, and at worst doomed. A factor I haven't mentioned yet, is, of course climate change. All the time I hear of governments pledging to take steps to reduce the amount of CO2 they chuck out into the atmosphere, but when do you hear of them saying they will take steps to reduce, or at least stabilise their populations? You don't. Religion has a lot to answer for where population explosion is concerned, particularly in the insistence on the sanctity of all human life and the right of every foetus to be born, whether or not it may be deformed, or not wanted by the parents, or the result of a rape....or whatever - you get the picture. You have those who don't allow contraception or abortions. The result being large families of people in very overcrowded cities, poverty, deprivation, and disease - ridden early death for many of these unfortunate children who had to be born because they are sacred to the god existing only between the ears of those who believe in him/she/or it. They call themselves "pro life" when the ultimate outcome of their stance is misery and death.
China has been castigated for its one child policy. China is at least facing up to the problem and trying to do something about it. You would think that China having the land mass that it has, would have loads of room for everyone, with vast reaches of unspoiled countryside. Well, this is more and more not the case, and they are fighting to resolve it, even though some of their methods seem cruel to us in the west.
Well, I think I have made my point. I have mentioned these things in earlier postings, but now I am not working any more (for the moment at least), I find myself with more time to ponder these issues, and write about them. Its now time for me to take a walk from my house where there was a nice field at the back of us when we moved in 16 years ago, and is now an ugly housing development. I'm going to the corner shop which was once a much more modest affair but which charmingly catered for all our basic needs, but has since been taken over by Tesco attracting every man and his dog as well as being frequented by massive delivery lorries blocking up the road and creating chaos.....oh joy!