On the way home from Buckler’s Hard, we stopped off in Fordingbridge, then drove on to Hale to see Phil Agland and his family. I worked with him and Nigel Tuersely at the Earthlife Foundation in the 1980s – an astonishingly innovative and entrepreneurial organisation, whose ambitions ultimately, sadly, outran its resources. But think of it as like a neutron star, seeding the universe the universe with the building blocks of future life.
But one of the great learning experiences of my life – and a precursor to SustainAbility, where Julia Hailes and I (with help from Tom Burke) took a couple of projects we had been working on while with Earthlife, Green Pages and The Green Consumer Guide.
Earlier in the summer, we had gone to the BAFTA-hosted premiere of Phil’s new TV series, China: Between Clouds and Dreams, the subject of a blog on 7 June. The series, ominously if accurately, is sub-titled ‘China’s Silent Spring’.
A lovely lunch with Phil, Ana and Lara, then a long ramble with Phil alongside the River Avon, the Hampshire one. At one point we stood in the same place by the river for perhaps half an hour, watching schools of large trout and clouds of small fry. What a pleasure to see such a healthy river.
We were shadowed by a herd of white cattle whose muzzles seemed to have been dipped into squid ink. They became rather raucous at moments, but nothing that a firm voice and raised hands couldn’t stall.
An afternoon of buzzards, warblers, kestrels, sandpipers, swans and the like, though in some cases only one of the kind. One of the most heartwarming afternoons I’ve had in a long time.
Then, as we were driving back to London along the M3, I spotted a set of Iron Age fortifications to the left. Heart soared. Sadly, I knew, the area was also the locus of the battles to stop motorway building in the UK, in this case the battle of Twyford Down. Gaia was involved in later battles around the Newbury Bypass and the M77 in Scotland, and was briefly imprisoned for her pains.
But what a joy to see St Catherine’s Hill, even if there are nearby Plague Pits. Would love to walk over the fortifications at some point, to see the wildlife and contemplate what our motorways will look like 1,000 years or so from today.
Will that landscape be bright with insect life and birdsong, or will Rachel Carson‘s projections have finally come home to roost? Phil asked me whether I am optimistic or pessimistic?
The only answer has to be both, with the (mythical) ostrich-like reflexes of British voters recently giving little assurance that this country (or the wider world) can raise its eyes from the immediate moment to distant horizons. Which raises the question what the next generation’s equivalent of the Canary Girls will find themselves doing.
But extraordinary times can call forth extraordinary leaders – and extraordinary leadership. So, as Churchill engagingly put it, we must K.B.O. Keep Buggering On.