A couple of weeks ago I was in Norwich at a shopping centre and it’s been bothering me ever since. Because as we walked through the car-park there was a murmuration.
Not a big one as these things go: a couple of thousand starlings, doing all their wonderful circling and spiralling and shape-shifting above the city centre. Naturally my family and I stopped and admired, passing amiable remarks with a few others doing the same thing.
But most people didn’t stop. Maybe a quick glance upwards – wondering why we were looking at the sky — and then they moved on. As if nature – as if one of the great miracles of British wildlife – didn’t matter a jot to them.
But I know that’s false. Last year, Sky TV did an advert featuring a murmuration and everybody loved it. Talked about it. Wanted to see it again. Wondered if they’d ever see such miracle for themselves.
And I thought: have we reached the stage when people only value wildlife when it’s on telly? Do we only accept wildlife as a wonderful thing when somebody else points it out, endorses it and showcases it? Do we no longer trust our own ability to go phwoar at the ordinary and the marvellous things of the wild world?
It was a dismaying notion. Perhaps televised wildlife doesn’t lead us to the wild world at all: perhaps it just leads us back to more television. We’re always being encouraged – by television adverts – not to leave sport to professional athletes but to get up and take part ourselves.
I think we should have the same sort of campaign for the wild world: don’t leave it to professional TV naturalists, go out and do it yourself. Good for the body. Good for the heart. Good for the soul.