Herefordshire folk launch innovative campaign to save the rainforest

Contributor: Jeremy Bugler


The countless millions who follow this blog will be aware of a rainforest campaign that I and some mates have started, named The Size of Herefordshire. Its aim is to help protect an area of rainforest in northeastern Peru the size of the county in which we happily dwell. This part of Peru is the terrain of an indigenous people, the Wampi. Not long ago, the Wampi got together and declared their territory an `autonomous region’ within Peru.  Basically, they are singing the old Woodie Guthrie song “This Land is Our Land”  – they are exerting their right to resist the loggers and miners and oilmen who have their eyes on their 1.4 million hectares of their rainforest. The British charity The Forest Peoples Programme is helping them do this, not least by getting their legal rights to their land mapped and accepted.

The Size of Herefordshire is aiming to protect little more than a fifth of this land but in truth in the nature of rainforest is such that we will possibly protect much more by feeding money to the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and thence to the Wampis. Our principle fund-raising tool is ingenious – an online interactive map which allows people to choose parcels of Herefordshire, click on them and cough up a fiver.  The parcel is then theirs and corresponds to helping to protect at least that amount of rainforest. The fiver plus gift aid goes in its entirety straight to the FPP.  (All can be seen at www.sizeofherefordshire.org).

I think this is a diamond-brilliant concept. It came not out of my head but those of clever people working in Cardiff for Acclimatize, the climate change consultancy.  Two weeks ago we publicly launched the campaign in Herefordshire with articles in the local papers and interviews on BBC Hereford and Worcester.

Already the concept seems to be catching attention.  The online map, developed by the ingenious Ian Short of Pragsys, is starting to show dark green squares where people have sponsored their land parcels.   There are a few major blocks where hugely generous people have dug deep but largely the squares are being filled by small donations.

Last Saturday, The Size of Herefordshire had a stand at the River Carnival, a wonderfully varied festival of fun and good causes along the banks of the River Wye.  People made nice noises when we explained how we are trying to help the Wampis and the rainforest, on the health of which we all depend of course.  Some even pledged to cough up as soon as they got home.

More on this campaign’s progress later.

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To London recently for a book launch, those occasions when the circle of friends around an author gather to celebrate the new book.  This launch was for Camille And The Lost Diaries of Samuel Pepys, written by Bob Marshall-Andrews, the QC and former Labour MP who did so much to defeat New Labour’s endless attempts to restrict our liberties.

One might have thought that after such a distinguished career Bob might rest on his laurels a little, just taking the occasional rewarding brief between sips of Chateau Margaux. Not Bob: Camille is his second novel and it’s extraordinarily clever and inventive.  Bob supposes that Pepys is despatched to France to negotiate a treaty with Louis XIV.   There he meets a French actress as intelligent as she is beautiful and the narrative runs like a stag from thereon. It’s very funny to boot and the praise on the front cover from a Telegraph writer  – “in fecundity of imagination he invites comparison with a Graves, a Vidal or a Burgess” – is very little over-stated.

It would make a cracking movie, with perhaps Mark Rylance cast as Pepys and Marillon Cotillard as Camile.  I can’t recommend the book more highly.

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Not long ago, I reached a landmark, that of breathing the air of this planet for three-quarters of a century. Doing so, I recalled a remark by Nigel Nicholson on becoming old, that though he looked very different to how he did as a young man in his twenties, he didn’t feel different.   He still saw himself as a young man.

I know what he meant, though with qualifications.  I am startled by being old, and especially by the perceptions of other people.    I spent part of a recent morning shifting 25-kilogram feed sacks from the back of a car down into a shed.  Later that day, I went to the supermarket.  At the checkout, I was asked: “Do you want help with loading your shopping, sir?”  I was nonplussed.   I’d put the shopping in bags in the trolley by this time. “I mean, lifting the bags into your car” she explained.   I muttered that I thought I would manage, but the damage was of course in knowing that’s how I looked to her.

I’ve become used to getting on buses and finding decent people offering me their seat (usually women, often ethnic, very rarely young white men.)  Even so I was I bit dismayed when getting on a Kensington bus recently, three people leapt up together like salmon engaged in synchronised swimming

I read recently that a man aged 75 has a life expectancy of a further 11 years (for women it is 13). I remembered this when ordering some wine recently.   The particular was good to the year 2030.   That’ll cover it then, I thought.

Real insight into the condition of being old is hard to come by, but I ran across some wisdom in Julian Barnes’s new novel about Shostakovich The Noise of Time.

He has Shostakovich reflect “The self-doubt of the young is nothing to the self-doubt of the old.”

Of all the changes in my 75 years, the advent of IT has been the most startling.  The change though that I have found most burdensome, day from day, is the steady, unremitting loss of the wild.  When I was at school, the Marlborough Downs were teeming with hares; the school even had a beagling club to try to hunt them.  (Some chance.)  Today, hares are a relative rarity – we exclaim with joy when we see one. I recall cricket fields thick with swallows and clouds of butterflies along the hedgerows.   Even twenty years ago, when we came to our farm, there were curlews in the water meadow and house martins galore.  My younger son counted 14 martin nests under the eaves of the house, for a school project.  Today, we may get two or three.

An Australian philosopher has coined the word ‘sostalgia’ to stand for “a form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental damage.”    He’d seen among communities in New South Wales ravaged by droughts and mining.  Well, sostalgia sadly has a presence in Herefordshire too.

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A good friend of mine died the other day, defying the stats by reaching only 65.

I shall miss many things about Nicky Daw and not least her full-hearted sense of humour.  I shall always remember her glee in telling me about living in a house with the unusual name of Hicockolorum.  She and her husband Pete received a letter addressed to Mr & Mrs Daw, High Cock or Low Bum.  It was from Barclays Bank.

She laughed like a drain.

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