This isn’t the promised ‘next post on places that show how interpretation contributes to sustainable tourism‘. That is still ‘in press’.
Just now, this seems more important, even though it is only tangentially about heritage interpretation.
This is about saving the world , or at least the natural world. or at least that part of it that lives in the UK. Interpreters have a part to play in that (the part to do with building public appreciation, understanding and support for wild places and wildlife) but politicians have a bigger part.
I have just been delighted and surprised to receive an invitation to the RSPB State of Nature Question Time event that is happening alongside the Conservative Party conference. That sounds a great gig – and I definitely want to ask a question. I have loads.
Conveniently, quite a lot of those questions could be linked directly to the State of Nature report which was published earlier this year. It set out in black and white what many our clients and friends in RSPB, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Wildlife Trusts and other conservation organisations have been saying for years; our wildlife is in deep and dire trouble and it is not going to get any better (probably the reverse) if we don’t change something.
So it’s pretty easy to find questions to put to politicians. There will be at least one politician, the Rt Honorable Owen Peterson Secretary of State for the Environment on the panel. That’s good. I think a lot of the audience will have questions for him. The glaringly obvious one goes something like, ‘what evidence do you need to see before this will bother you enough to act?’. I suspect lots of people will ask that one. I want a more original, wittier and more incisive question.
What do you think I should ask?
It isn’t just politicians on the panel though, there is thinker from ‘one of the UK’s leading think tank’ there; Guy Hewey, Head of Environment and Energy at Policy Exchange. Could he answer questions about whether changing our economic models would help us factor in environment and biodiversity more effectively? Do I even know enough about that to ask the question, let alone understand the answer? Alternatively I could ask whether we and the natural environment are up the creek without a paddle because the decisions rest with those politicians who dwell in the short term world of elected governments.
What would you ask?
Reasonably enough, Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB will be on the panel too. It seems a bit ‘biting the hand that feeds me’ to give him a challenging time , but that’s not impossible. There are questions about how the NGOs can most effectively pressure government and whether they are doing enough.
What do you think the most important question is?
I am pretty certain that I have not received this invite because of my long and illustrious career in interpreting the natural heritage of the UK. I have I suspect it arrived on my doormat simply a because I am a localish RSPB member.
But at the end of the day, I am an interpreter and a well-seasoned one. I do know that talking to the powers that be, the big ‘cheeses’ involves a different bag of tricks from my well-worn and highly-coloured interpreters’ toolkit. I do realise this is not my natural mileau.
That’s why I would really like suggestions from more seasoned campaigners of good questions to ask.
But still …
… maybe I should stick with what I know, after all. Maybe I should go for that short, fun question that they squeeze in at the end. Maybe I should ask the deceptively simple question that I have asked so many people at the start of my workshops. The one that often makes us well up.
Maybe I should simply ask ‘Can you tell us about a time when being in touch with nature really mattered to you?’.
I would love to hear their answers.
What do you think I should ask?