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Monday, 8 August 2011

All watched over by machines of loving grace

I’ve been reading about the perturbation effect. And I am perturbed.

The perturbation effect occurs when an intervention to control something creates the opposite, an increase in that which is trying to be controlled. This has come up in the badger culling debate where the original study showed that attempts to contol the badgers meant that the animals became ‘perturbed’ and ranged further away from their home territories, thus increasing contacts with more cows and thus increasing the incidence of bovine tuberculosis. Or, to put it another way, they get afraid of all manner of human-induced crap and run away, fast. But, badger fans, easy on those hammers, because this isn’t about your stripey friends. This is about us.

We all have our limits and we can quickly reach a saturation point that means that we feel we have to escape disturbances and move to a different place. And that place is so often wild and natural. We frequently refer to our brushes with nature, whether it be a countryside walk, a bit of birdwatching or a determined trek into wilderness, as being part of an ‘escape’. An escape from the pressures of everyday life, escape from the idiots at work who ring you only to ask if you’re on the phone, escape from the relentless pile-up of technological barriers put there in the name of progress. We’re perturbed. And this is both wonderful and tragic.

Wonderful because we still recognise its necessity. Incongruously we place ourselves in exposed and wide open spaces to find sanctuary because it’s a place where the modern predators no longer stalk us. They migrated to the cities long ago and we can be left alone to forge links that have become weakend over time.

Tragic because, for the majority, we now treat these experiences as unique and ones that have to be sought after. It takes effort to experience them and needs a concious plugging-in of the wires that connect us to the natural world. But when we do, those connecting wires sing with a thousand messages.

All things considered, there has to be another way. It seems that if we can find a way to experience (or at least feel) our place as one of the planet’s species regardless of our time and place then that’s better than feeling the need to escape when things become too much. Ahead of his time, in 1960 Kenneth Allsop said it best. "In this technologically triumphant age, when the rockets begin to scream up towards the moon but the human mind seems at an even greater distance, anger has a limited use. Love has a wider application, and it is that which needs describing wherever it can be found so that we may all recognise it and learn its use"

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