22 Apr Earth Day: A Walk on the Wild Side
Covid-19 has turned everything upside down for us all.
Today’s Earth Day would have seen me in the United States, on a long-planned field trip to investigate environmental destruction caused by factory farming. Instead, like so many people around the world, I’m under lockdown, staying at home, taking the pressure off our heroic health service, so they can better save lives.
If it were not for the pandemic, today would have seen people in 193 countries out on the streets, participating in our planet’s largest civic event, to draw attention to the urgent need for climate change action.
I’m delighted that Earth Day actions have not been cancelled but have moved online and that Compassion in World Farming will be lending its support. It’s a ground-breaking year for the event, the 50th anniversary of what’s credited as the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
As we celebrate Earth Day, I feel very fortunate to live in a rural area, where I can enjoy my small garden with its bird feeder, that attracts all sorts of cheerful, colourful birds, including the occasional pheasant. I feel for those who are unable to get out during lockdown; in high-rise flats and densely populated areas where opportunities for exercise and social distancing are more limited.
Living on a small farm hamlet with my wife Helen and our rescue dog, Duke. This place I call home is my lens for watching the countryside and the changing of the seasons. Every day, Duke and I, walk through the fields and woods. I am thankful every single day for his companionship. I know for many of us, our companion animals are a huge source of solace during these difficult times.
These days, during my daily isolation walk with Duke, it is comforting to see nature unfolding.
During one recent afternoon’s walk I saw drama in the blue skies above. A pair of buzzards wheeled above our hamlet, so high they were just specks. I could sense their agitation and a third bird, large like them but much paler and with more gull-like wings, was swirling with them.
Through my camera, I could see that the otherwise nesting buzzards had intercepted a scarce and precious sight: a migrating Osprey! Within minutes, they had safely escorted the intruder away. Seen safely out of ‘their’ airspace, the buzzards relaxed again. Through high-powered optics, I watched one of the expectant parents return cautiously to the nest, a ramshackle collection of sticks high in a still leafless tree.
The sky was quiet again. I was elated.
During spring and summer, Duke and I also see cows grazing in the riverside meadow, their eyes bright and tails flicking. They chase Duke when they’re feeling feisty and simply sniff him when they’re not.
Their liveliness is in stark contrast to cows locked in barns or feedlots; standing listless in their own muck, their features dulled and their movement leaden, mere shadows of life. For them, verdant pasture is out of reach, and fields miss the contribution they could make to regenerate the soil.
Nature observed during peaceful walks with Duke, have always provided me with the backdrop for reflection, especially after far-flung forays to explore urgent issues of animal cruelty and the future of our food and the countryside. After bearing witness to dreadful scenes of factory farming, coming home serves as my anchor and retreat.
As we all battle against the Coronavirus – we’re all in it together – so we must also remember not to forget the battle for the planet.
Factory farming and overconsumption of meat, are major drivers of wildlife declines worldwide and of climate change.
Ultimately we have all always been in this together: people, animals and the planet.
On Earth Day, I thank you for helping us get vital messages out; that to protect people and safeguard our future, we also have to protect animals and the planet too.
As I walk with Duke through the fields and woods of home, during this most difficult time for the world and its people, I very much look forward to that moment when Covid-19 is well and truly beaten, and our loved ones are safe, so we can all embrace a new beginning. One centred on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of people, by also recognising the importance of protecting nature, animal welfare and the environment.