In a world of political upheaval can we still find hope?

Last week I was challenged live on radio as to where I go to find hope when it seems the world has descended into tribalism and hostility towards anything that stands in opposition to your particular view point.

I would love to say that the struggles are limited to the realms of Brexit, Trump, Bolsanaro and others. But in the conservation sector the temperature is high as well. Grouse hunting, badger culling, removal of grey squirrels, new housing, water extraction, fracking, fossil fuels, climate debate…… In all these cases we see a “them and us” mentality rather than a concerted effort to find consensus.

Lets take climate change. I was recently challenged by a Hampshire resident to prove that climate change caused by man was happening. My reply was another question; “lets suppose I cant prove that it is caused by us. Surely even if we cant prove it, the desire to make our planet rapidly more sustainable is still a good idea?” Not surprisingly his answer was “yes-I agree that tackling planetary issues can only be a good thing”.

In other words, our biggest threat is getting bogged down in argument and counter argument. However strongly you feel about shooting grouse; there will always be someone with an equally vociferous alternative viewpoint. On occasion one party is probably right; but it remains a much better option to seek compromise and consensus rather than try to bat the alternative perspective into total submission or humiliation.

This last week has been brutal. Several prominent MP’s in the county have lost the whip; we have learnt that the government is going to put no new money into the environment (it clearly is not on their list of priorities) and there is a growing fight between conservationists and farmers on everything from upland sheep farming, to grouse moors and bovine TB. In short we are living through the most uncertain time for our nation and the most dangerous time for nature since the end of the Second World War.

So what can we do? As a county we need to be people with cool heads, a community spirit and a passion to work together for a better and greener future. If you are feeling at a loss on how to positively influence the brutal debates that are raging, I can think of nothing better than volunteering regularly on a nature reserve near you. In the course of a few hours you will meet people with entirely different perspectives on life than you may have-and yet in digging a ditch, planting a tree or laying a hedge you will start to develop relationships with those who you would not normally associate with in normal everyday life. In short-you have become an ambassador for change; where through friendship you start to build the bridges that our broken society so desperately needs.

Learning to compromise is not about ignoring things that are wrong however. Where we see hate, rage, division, dishonesty and arrogance we are still expected to challenge it. But lets do so through peaceful direct action. Loving our wildlife, appreciating difference, building community with those who we may disagree and learning to love the unloved are all good things. These are going to be tough times for everyone in the next months. But I passionately believe that caring for our amazing nature here is Hampshire is one of the best ways to build hope at a time when many are only feeling despair.