I am an unhealthy person. I don't get enough exercise, I regulate my sleeping patterns with alcohol and caffeine, and most of my meals are based around cheese. But this is my life and it's how I choose to live it. I was once watching a show about longevity. They were speaking to people who were trying to increase their life span by eating a special diet: It has been shown that partial starvation will increase your life expectancy. Mammals have loads of biological systems in place to deal with a lack of sufficient food and when these systems are occasionally put to work they can make you healthier. The people in the programme were activating these systems by condemning themselves to a diet that, most days, just about met their nutritional requirements, and on some days, didn't. As I watched them tucking into their tiny tepid bowl of watery string beans I thought to myself "good on you! you will probably outlive me by a good 20 years! 20 grey, miserable cheeseless years!" Then I went and got myself another beer. I don't mean to suggest that this is in any way wrong or a bad. If anyone reading this espouses healthy living, with a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetable and lots of exercise, I salute you. It's an individual choice that we all make. But I feel that the pleasure that I get from my cheese, coffee and wine outweighs the years shaved off my life, and these things cannot be quantified. And so it is just a question of value. Which brings me (finally!) on to the topic of this post. Conservation, or "the tricky issue of the definition of value".
This is a very important and personal topic to me. As far as I can remember I have held the natural world with a mixture of love and fascination. My earliest memories were of chasing grasshopper in a field behind my parents house in Spokane, Washington. Nature is precious to me, valuable. Yet year after year we are witnessing a steady decline in biodiversity worldwide. The looming spectre of climate change has us staring down the barrel of the largest mass extinction since the end of the Permian some 250 mya. Evidently nature is not precious or valuable to everyone. Which got me thinking about exactly what "valuable" is.
For most of recorded history, gold has had no practical use (it does now). Yet rivers of blood have been spent acquiring it. Why? Market forces. Demand. People want it. Badly. But why do people want it? For it's properties. It's rare and beautiful. Great works of art are even more valuable. They are rarer, more beautiful and importantly if they are lost or destroyed they cannot be replaced. Oil is also valuable. But its value lies in its usefulness. Almost every device that we have is powered by burning a bunch of dead dinosaurs. Machines also have practical value. Our mobile phones allow you to communicate with anyone in the entire world just by tapping on a slick piece of glass that fits in your pocket.
So why is nature not held in the same esteem? It possesses the same properties. Only amplified. Nature is rarer: The complex interaction of plants, animals and fungi that exist in an ecosystem like the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest in the United States is totally unique in the Universe. It is more beautiful: I don't care how much your fiance paid for that ring - it's not the sun setting over the sea on the Dalmatian coast, and it never will be. It's more useful: Oil may drive our machines. But nature provides the food and water the drives us. As for machines, nothing that we have ever made can hold a candle to even the most mundane and everyday life forms. Jeremy Clarkson can bang on about amazing feats of engineering all he likes, but in terms of intricacy, efficiency and sheer staggering complexity even a device like the Large Hadron Collider pales in comparison to each and every single blade of grass under your feet.
And yet people will happily cut down entire forests just to get enough oil and or gold to buy a work of art.
The environment cannot be possessed. Not in any real sense. And fundamentally this is the problem. Everything else that we have possesses a monetary value and can be owned - it can be yours. You can take it out at parties and show your friends and they'll get all super jealous. And then you win. Nature's existence will not give you status.
In this sense the value of nature is more like the value of a loved one. The people that we love are totally unique. Cannot be made, owned or replaced. When it is there you are whole and complete. And when they are gone it leaves a hole in your heart filled with pain. So to conclude; while I clearly don't value my own health. The health of the environment is a different story... kinda makes me feel bad for my surviving family.
By making the films that we do, we hope to inspire as many people as possible to open their eyes to the wonders (and value) of the natural world around them.
I'll leave you with a quote from Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
"Once there were brook trouts in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."
follow me on twitter at @jamesadunbar What's new with Team Candiru
The biggest news is that Team Candiru has received an award in the Kolkata International Wildlife and Environment Film Festival. We are very happy and would like to give another big thanks to our kickstarter backers. Without whom this would have never been possible.
Recently some of my footage was featured on the BBC programme Worlds Weirdest Events with Chris Packham. It was part of this Jewel Wasp sequence. After the program aired we were contacted by Dr Ross Piper, who was one of the scientific experts on that programme asking if we would be interested in collaborating to make a film about solitary wasps. Whilst making The Solitary Bees we joked about making one about wasps - now it looks like we are going to! With a little bit of help from Ross we are confident that we can tell the story of another amazing and beautiful group of hymenopteran insects.
Ash sapling shot in Leigh Woods in the Avon Gorge.
Camera: NIkon d200s.
Lens: Nikon 24mm MF f2.8 at f4.
Again if anyone has any questions about any of the images featured in the blog do please let me know.