Being Reasonable

A cool Spring day with a noticeable easterly wind and just a sprinkling of a sun-shower out towards White Waltham – not a perfect cycling day but a long way from a bad one. If only my legs agreed.

Alongside most of the roads, there’s the inevitable litter thrown into the ditches and on the verges. It’s ‘just’ the normal depressing trail that humanity leaves, there’s nothing new about it. There’s also nothing reasonable about it.

Litter in a stream

Not in my vocabulary

With Codgertation, I ponder on and I try to be reasonable – the occasional rant aside. Looking at the ‘normal’ litter all around, and reading about the rising tide of rubbish on our beaches, today I found myself trying to be reasonable about being unreasonable.

Littering isn’t the product of a reasonable attitude – toward the environment or your fellow citizens. Wars aren’t reasonable, nor is any other violence for that matter. Corruption – in politics, in the police, anywhere – isn’t reasonable. Our all too prevalent ‘bonus culture’ and the complete myth that you have to pay top money to get top people is manifestly wrong, proven to be wrong, and thus utterly unreasonable. Cults, religions, fad diets, unchecked population growth, demonizing the poor and neglecting the elderly – none of it is reasonable.

The problem is obvious: an unreasonable and unreasoning mind isn’t going to respond positively to reason. That’s akin to two different languages spoken with no understanding on either side, and no interpreter.

Which leaves us with the question: what should a reasonable person do in the face of unreasonable behaviour? Learn a new language – actually be unreasonable? Try and act as an interpreter – understand the unreasonable with a view to explaining the reasonable?

Of course, I’m grappling with nothing new here. Plenty of finer minds than mine have thought long and hard about this and related/similar issues. We’re in ‘it takes a thief to catch a thief’ territory. We’re in ‘Just and Unjust Wars’ territory. But for all that it’s a commonplace topic, it does no harm to remind yourself that your own – supposedly/hopefully -rational, sensible world view is more-or-less incomprehensible babble to many others.

When It All Gets Too Crowded

New Forest Woodland

Boring bosky dells – and other delights to ride by

To the New Forest for a holiday with, naturally, the intention that some days should include some cycling. I think I’d read somewhere that there are 100 miles of cycle trail in the national park and so we went equipped for some off-road riding.

We found plenty of trails … we found woods and we found heath. What we – Charli and I – also found was that it was all terrifically controlled and, well, tame.

Now, neither of us are tough off-road riders willing to risk life and limb in the pursuit of speed and ‘getting some air’ or whatever it is that braver people than me say when they’ve both wheels off the ground: I’m old and wise enough to know how much falling off hurts. I might be fat but I don’t bounce like I used to.

However, the New Forest trails are at the other extreme. I can see their appeal for riders who want a quiet traffic-free pootle-about and I’m not knocking that. I can see that it must be a horrifically busy area peak season and so managing the riders to prevent erosion is probably very necessary. But it is all just a bit boring as a result.

A sobering through is that, given the way the population is increasing, it’s probably a glimpse of the future – especially if you add in to the equation our increasingly risk-averse culture.

Protect The Important

South of Reading, local councillors have decided too band to together to protect open spaces from being built on. They’re doing so because they’re being ignored by council officials at a borough level, and central government will do nothing to help.

I saw these snowdrops and aconites at Welford Park yesterday. I saw plenty of snowdrops while out riding today – a circuit taking in a pothole-strewn downhill from Checkendon and a sweat-inducing uphill slog to Woodcote.

If spring bulbs aren’t important to you then you’re possibly dead from the neck up. If open spaces aren’t important to you, then you’re possibly dead from the neck up. Even if these things aren’t important to you, if you can’t see that they’re important for lots of other people, then surely you’ve no right to be in a position to make decisions that will curtail the enjoyment of others.

We do not need more building. If we are to provide future populations with a decent quality of life then we need to protect open spaces. If you say that we need more building to house a growing population, then the only sensible response to that can be that we need to look at curbing the population. Low-quality life isn’t a worthy goal. We know that humans don’t respond well to over-crowding so why perpetuate it?

Welford Park snowdrops and aconites

“Let’s build on this too.”

Councillors south of Reading banding together.
Welford Park.
You could start here for over-crowding research.

Boring Caring

I’ve been reading about butterflies being in decline in Britain. That’s one of those stories – it’s telling you something that you knew but that you didn’t realise you knew. Cycling around, in my garden, out walking – wherever, I’ve been registering that butterflies are fairly rare but not consciously. They’re rare enough to make me want to try and grab a photo when I see it.

A Comfrey flower with a butterfly

A Comfrey flower with a butterfly - another huge gap in my knowledge as I haven't a clue what sort it is

As is often the case, the loss of habitat is the issue: the normal bad, short-sighted farming methods; too many people and nature-unfriendly gardens; not enough people caring. It’s the same old story. It’s boring in its familiarity – which means it never makes it on to the widespread general news agenda. There is no effective, loud voice for the caring in any ongoing way.

Riding today – the lanes of Berkshire and South Oxfordshire – and there was another case of only now noticing the obvious: I’d never before realised how green the hedgerows become once the white flowers fade, how rare any other colours are. Rhododendrons are an exception but they’re not native. There are some other colours to be found dotted about but you have to look hard to find them – clover for example. Perhaps it is different elsewhere in the country but now I’m thinking about it, I can’t recall ever noticing a bright ‘natural’ hedgerow anywhere that I’ve been in Britain.

I thought bees and other pollinators were attracted to colours as well as pollen itself or, rather, attracted by colour (and scent) to pollen. Perhaps I have it all wrong, or perhaps these days hedgerows are as ruined and thus nature-unfriendly as our farmed land.

I don’t know if it’s a reflection on me or simply a reasonable reaction to how we live that I’m inclined to believe the latter more than the former.

Rhododendrons - non-native but successful if they find the right conditions

Rhododendrons - successful non-natives

A clover flower

Clover - a spot of colour

Not Young Again

Governments around the world lurching to the right. The financial mess the whole world is in. Religious revivalism; religious fanaticism. Technology and surveillance; the end of privacy. Finite resources. The burgeoning world population. Climate change.

I could go on.

I don’t think it can be right that I would turn down an offer to be young again. There is nothing about the prospects of the young nor their position in society now that I envy, that makes me wish I could roll back the years and enjoy it with them. That that’s the case can’t be healthy, surely.

A reasonable length if fairly flat road ride with Jim today, with Henley the only town we went through. We were talking the whole way around, a lot of the time about the bigger questions. We know too many people in trouble, one way or another, not to. He’s of the same view about being young again; Charli is too.

A couple of years ago I was in a pub, The Swan in Pangbourne, for lunch. A small group of quite old people were a couple of tables down from us. One of their number was a little deaf and hence prone to speaking quite loudly. She was also the most vocal of them – though not in a bossy or hectoring way. Not overhearing was not an option. At one point she said – and I wrote it down at the time: “Oh, I hope I don’t live too much longer. I don’t like this century at all.”

She was holding forth, as it were. Her companions looked a little uneasy – understandably because what is a suitable response? ‘I hope you die soon too’ is never going to be acceptable. It was just a comment and a moment though; they all carried on yakking happily enough. The chap sitting next to her – I doubt that he was her partner – caught me looking over at them, a glance prompted by that remark, and offered a slightly sheepish comedy grimace by way of apology for his companion. I just smiled but no apology was needed. I could understand her point of view.

Time For The Devil

Another unseasonal day – today it was even milder, much more so than it should be. It makes for nice riding, but …

If you look into the history of the devil in popular culture, you’ll find the notion of the devil that we have today has a lot of its roots around the 1500s; a time of both climate change and a rising population that couldn’t be fed. A notion of a devil as we have it today is manifestly irrational. There’s plenty of irrationality around today. That is not a foundation for optimism.

There’s plenty of media space being taken up at the moment by the seven billionth person being born some time around about now. Quite when this milestone is reached is neither here nor there.

In my early 50s, I know I’m old in real terms, for a human in a body that they say is really designed to stop functioning in its 40s, but it’s not as if I’ve been stalking the planet for that long. When I was born there was only a tad over three billion people. The growth is staggering.

I read a while back that you can track the likelihood of wars occurring between countries to the number of young males there are in the populations of those countries. No, it is not difficult to work out what the growth in the population of the planet has meant on that front.

A lot of the talk in connection with this seven billionth person on the planet has been about whether that many people can be fed. There’s no discussion about the quality of life, no examination of long term sustainability, no putting it in the context of a planet likely to be less able to support humanity as the climate changes.

It should be a wholly different world now, compared to the 1500s. We have a stunningly complex global interconnectivity operating in so many ways; we know so much more; there’s the simple fact of the entire body of science as it has developed since then and the fruits of centuries of empirical enquiry; there’s the so starkly obvious failing of religion of any variety to serve mankind well.

And what do we have?

We have a growth in state sponsored ‘faith schools’; we have any number of tin pot politicians harping on about national identities when the need is for a global perspective; we have a never-ended parade of cranks and quacks offering bogus certainties.

History doesn’t repeat itself, things move on – but human nature doesn’t change.