chapter  22
7 Pages

Conservation

Human pleasure in the wild and untamed places of the world is often a recent phenomenon, coinciding roughly with the ability to bend much of it to human purposes when required. So the romantic movement of the nineteenth century (see Chapter 20) makes the rough places inspiring rather than terrifying (or at any rate pleasurably terrifying, like a horror movie): the Alps and the English Lakes were two places much revalued by the time the railways reached them. But the appeal of the primitive has persisted and so many such areas have been given protected status under legislation, often as National Parks. (This function may overlap with the category of wildlife protection.) The National Park is frequently supposed to be an island in time: a vignette of how it was before humans had altered the landscapes apparently permanently. The savannas of Africa, the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies, and the Biaowieza forest of eastern Poland are all thus designated. Visitors are encouraged, provided that their behaviour is deemed appropriate and that not too many facilities have to be provided. Tensions thus exist between the desire to have the awe-inspiring experience and the desire to have it in not too much discomfort. Further, ecological history often shows that the landscape is not as natural as all that and so the desirable landscapes are in some ways cultural and so their preservation may be contrary to the processes of nature which are supposed to be dominant. Yosemite NP in California, for example, is famed inter alia for the beauty of the meadows with oak groves along the

enhancement of biodiversity. The elements of this landscape are called by a variety of names: nature reserves, biosphere reserves and also national parks are the commonest terms. But if their purpose is to perpetuate natural diversity by preserving the web of ecosystems in which it flourishes, then human intervention may be necessary. Few such places are large enough for the ecosystem boundaries to coincide with the legal boundaries and so management is often needed to, as it were, keep the inside in and the outside out. A herbivore mammal species which is migratory may spend part of the year outside a National Park and there become a competitor for forage resource with domesticated flocks. On the other hand, a nature reserve in a small basin might well be susceptible to the inwash and concentration of biocides from surrounding agricultural land. Only in the very largest reserves is it possible to maintain a totally 'hands-off' policy and to do that may well mean restrictions on the number of humans who can visit: Antarctica is a good example.