I’ve been feasting on sweet chestnuts – foraged in Shropshire and roasted on Gometra, and every mouthful leaves an embittered taste in my mouth. The chestnuts are sweet enough, but it’s the issue of foraging that gets in the way of enjoyment. In our queue for the ferry yesterday Katy and I decided to listen to the radio, and the very first item that we heard incensed us both. It was reporting that some authority or other was thinking of banning foraging – even blackberry picking!
So, what reasons do you think? The only one that I could discern was that the animals would suffer if people pick fruit, nuts and berries. So, whoever thinks humans shouldn’t eat wild food has clearly never been into the countryside – where you get a sense of grief to see all the fruits and berries rotting on the hedgerows (though, granted, abundant food for insects and plants). There’s plenty for all us animals there, and if there isn’t then surely the answer is to increase the space for wild habitats, not preserve tiny areas in aspic.
So what’s the real reason for the clamp-down? And does anyone actually care about people anymore? (Sorry for that melodramatic rejoiner – the issue brings it on).
Well’ I think I know the answer. ‘People’ are economic units, and even their physical and mental health are something to be monetised by industries. What use to anyone is a family or individual going out into an unregulated space and doing what comes naturally (like eating and sleeping)? Can we expect to see ‘berry-picking guided walks, led by trained, qualified and regulated berry-picking therapists – all carefully controlled by commissioners who have an eye to the cost-benefit ratio?
My related hunch is that maybe someone has clocked that it is the ‘wrong sorts’ who help themselves. I consider myself one of them. I do actually feed myself from wild foods – not totally, but enough that I’d be hungry without them – and this is clearly quite a subversive thing. But is it more damaging to the environment and society than corporate greed?
I find it hard to take seriously the claim that the people who want to keep us out of the countryside and instigate a ‘do not touch’ rule towards nature, are doing it for the benefit of nature (even if some of them believe that they are) – of which, incidentally, their fellow humans are a part. Selfishness is understandable when there are so many of us, but it shouldn’t be institutionalised. We shouldn’t be made to envy or despise someone who gets something for nothing – which is, after all, what the planet has always offered us if we could just appreciate it and not try to monopolise it. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as better, or even that much different, from any other earthly animal in that respect, and we shouldn’t take too much notice of people who want to control us under the auspices of guardianship. They are self-appointed, and likely as not don’t give a monkeys about you nor I.