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Time and peace cures all

The thrush Jim Crumley nursed back to health after it collided with his french windows.
The thrush Jim Crumley nursed back to health after it collided with his french windows.

I have just had a long conversation with nature, one to one, intimate, personal.

She heard me in silence throughout, while she lay on her back and looked up at me and I was a giant with my head somewhere near the sun.

She was a young thrush and she had just flown into the french windows, which were closed at the time. I picked her up and looked her over and began talking to her.

The papers had been full of bleak tidings. There had been another story about the extent of beaver shootings on Tayside, as many as possible before legal protection finally kicks in.

There was a story about the RSPB taking the wind farm industry to court – and winning – over plans for four huge wind farms off the Tay and Forth estuaries.

However, to read the industry’s response it was as if its divine right to do what the hell it likes had been usurped. Its army of lawyers will appeal, of course.

The John Muir Trust finally reached end of its own legal challenge against the industry. Specifically, it had fought a long court battle against Scottish Government-backed plans for Scotland’s biggest ever onshore wind farm, in the Monadhliath mountains despite the objection of the government’s own advisers.

And there was a story that the Swiss owners of the colossal Glensanda granite superquarry in Morvern had objected to a Marine Protected Area around Mull and had prevailed.

The thrush’s wings looked fine and once she was in the palm of my hand she held her head up and looked around, so her neck wasn’t broken. She tried to fly but fluttered a yard on to the ground, then pitched forward on to her breast as if her legs didn’t work.

I put her in quiet dark corner in a ventilated box and gave her time and peace. That’s the problem. We don’t give nature time and peace.

When I looked in on her a little later, she was moving around in the box and thrusting her beak through one of the holes. I took her out into the garden and placed her on a low, flat and sunny tree stump with some ground oatcake crumbs and a dish of water. She stood well on her legs and looked much perkier.

I talked to her again but from further off this time. The words came very easily to mind and the chances are you will know them too:

“I’m truly sorry man’s dominion

“Has broken nature’s social union,

“And justifies that ill opinion

“Which makes thee startle

“At me, thy poor earth-born companion,

“And fellow mortal!”

It seems to me we have not progressed very much in the 240 years since Robert Burns apologised on humankind’s behalf to nature through a mouse for screwing up the planet.

In fact, we have regressed spectacularly and now some of the worst transgressions against nature in Scotland are the direct consequence of Scottish Government policy.

I know that we have a new environment minister and I was encouraged by Roseanne Cunningham’s appointment and doubtless, her in-tray is as vast and clamorous as Glensanda quarry.

But in my eyes and in the black, unblinking eye of the thrush on its tree stump, these are simple decisions.

The beaver reintroduction project was enlightened. There is nothing to be gained by delaying a decision a moment longer, other than a souring of relations between the overwhelming majority of us who think the beavers should live and those farmers and keepers who would rather kill everything inconvenient that moves, who would do anything rather than give nature time and peace.

Marine Protected Areas are enlightened. They announce, “this far and no further”. They should not be rendered pliable at the whim of Swiss industrialists.

And any rational assessment of the windfarm industry must conclude that its environmental impact is disastrous and that as the scale of its ambition grows, so does its capacity to diminish the natural world.

We cannot rationalise every decision we make about the land and sea on how many million pounds and how many jobs will accrue, not when it means weakening the very building blocks of ecosystems.

If our new environment minister would care to take five minutes to scrutinise the quotations on the wall of the building where she works (I’m sure she knows many of them well), she will find this from John Muir: “The battle for conservation goes on endlessly. It is part of the universal battle between right and wrong.”

The thrush? It stood more or less motionless in the sun for more than an hour, closing its eyes from time to time, looking around at the flights and voices of other birds. Then it flew off, to live and fight another day.

Time and peace, that’s the secret.

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