Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Tuatara: Volume 25, Issue 1, July 1981

Conserve or Perish

page 37

Conserve or Perish

The Canadian Bison bison weighs half as much again as an ox; its meat tastes like beef and is 25 per cent higher in protein and 20 per cent less in cholesterol content and it is not known to cause any allergies in humans. Moreover 10 per cent more of the carcass at maturity can be used commercially and the animals which forage for grass and stubble even in the hard prairie winters need much less attention than oxen. It would therefore make sense to preserve, and sensibly crop, such an abundant source of food energy instead of bringing this useful animal to near extinction as was done in the last century.

One might equally cite the wholesale destruction of the tropical forests and other natural vegetation in many parts of the world as further areas of man's exploitation and degradation of the environment. Many lesser examples will be obvious to readers in their own neighbourhood or town, the countryside or seashore.

The current public concern over the complex environmental problems confronting us all and the philosophy of conservation must be aimed at wiser use and sensible management of our natural resources which includes all the plants and animals on land and in water. Fundamentally this implies education at all levels, not just environmental education in schools and colleges, but a total change in attitude and thought by everyone. The idea of the proper planned use of our natural resources, that they are precious and must not be squandered and must be made available to future generations, must be a basic concept in everyone's mind like keeping healthy or the wise use of one's earnings. Since widespread major environmental disasters like the effects of the use of DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons rarely obtrude in such a way that at once makes them obvious, they must be detected — or if possible prevented, by an enlightened public which demands a high quality environment and is prepared to see that it gets it.

Our renewable natural resources — all plants and animals, clean air, clean water, visual amenity and peace and quiet will continue and provided we do not exterminate the wildlife; all this is technically feasible in present day times. But our non-renewable resources are the real cause for worry, especially, oil, gas and coal. Even fissionable material will not go on for ever, so, if we do not learn how to harness and use solar energy, our future outlook on this planet is decidedly bleak. Disaster may not happen for a few decades, but happen it undoubtedly will. Already some commodities are in short supply and are being rationed by price, notably oil and petroleum products. If we think for a moment what happens in wild animal communities when food, space and other essential requirements become scarce — Starvation, disease, cannabilism and violence, we might realise the predicament of the human race, and begin to operate right now, a sensible and long-term management plan for a reasonable standard of living for ourselves. The Strategy for World Conservation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature will be ignored at the peril of the human race.

“Towards a better understanding of our environment” is the philosophy of the Field Studies Council in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1943 in the dark years of the last war by Francis Butler — a far-sighted science inspector of the London County Council Education Department, page 38 the Council for the Promotion of Field Studies as it was at first called, opened its first field centre in 1946 at Flatford Mill, near Colchester in the county of Essex and 80km N.E. of London.

The aim of this centre and the other nine which it has subsequently opened, is to provide first hand opportunities for anyone — individuals, schools and college parties, research workers — to study any branch of learning whose essential subject matter required suitable outdoor field facilities and brings them into direct contact with the environment. The centres not only provide facilities for field work, but organise a large number of courses each year in a variety of subjects.

Some courses are mainly designed to meet the British schools and university examination syllabuses, others may be specially commissioned and are often requested by groups of students from abroad. Such courses enable students to see for themselves something of our National Parks, nature reserves and how these are managed, effects of public pressure and how these are being combated. Courses are run in land use planning, ecology, wildlife conservation, geology and landscape interpretation, trees and their uses, to name only a few. Specialist, though not necessarily advanced courses suitable for the amateur are also organised in the study of birds, wildflowers, meteorology and many others — over 300 courses are listed for 1981. There are also courses for teachers usually heavily weighted with methodology.

In all courses whether of a biological, geological or geographical nature there is a strong suffusion of conservation and environmental awareness. Close liaison is maintained with national organisations such as the Nature Conservancy Council and Countryside Commission as well as local organisations like the County Trusts for Nature Conservation, which often hold courses at the centres.

There are nine residential centres and a one-day centre in England and Wales, all are in exceptionally good areas for field studies. Naturally the emphasis of facilities varies from centre to centre but all are provided with modern field and laboratory equipment and excellent libraries. The laboratories are designed to exploit fully the essential indoor follow-up work from the field, and microscopes, calculators, soil and water analysis apparatus and so on, are available both on courses run by the centres or tutored by an independent teacher with his/her own group, and also to
Fig 1: The Drapers' Field Centre, Rhyd-y-creuau,

Fig 1: The Drapers' Field Centre, Rhyd-y-creuau,

page 39 individuals. Accommodation is mostly in individual or small dormitories and is simple and comfortable; midday packed lunch is provided so that the maximum time can be spent in the field. Beside the Warden, there are normally three other tutors, all enthusiastic specialists in their own subject and familiar with the region round their centre. There is an Oil Pollution Research Unit attached to the Orielton Centre and the work of this as well as of other members of staff who undertake research in various fields, are made available to visitors at the Centre. Much of this is of direct educational value in the Centres' teaching. The Council publishes annually a scientific journal “Field Studies” and an annual report. The Field Studies Council is a private and independent organisation and can thus keep its charges within reasonable bounds. A week's course costs about 80 pounds sterling and includes everything except local travel. Breakfast, packed lunch, afternoon tea if required, evening dinner and light bedtime refreshment are provided. Shorter stays are possible and some weekend four day courses are organised. Special concessions are normally made for parties of ten or more, inquiries should be made to the Warden of the Centre concerned.

Running costs are largely met through fees charged to visitors. Many students in full-time education attending courses receive grants from their local education authority whose funds are derived partly from local taxation and partly from central government. Such grants vary from one authority to another. The Council is a registered charity which entitles it to certain tax concessions.

From 1948 when only four Centres were in operation, the then Ministry of Education made a generous grant to the Council; this was tailed off and in 1963 left the Council as a financially independent organisation. Representatives of the local education authorities, universities, polytechnics, schools, research organisations and business interests are among the members of the Executive Committee. The Council has a membership subscription of several thousand including life, incorporate (schools), family an individual members. All receive the annual report and they are entitled to buy the Council's journal “Field Studies” at a reduced rate; individual members are also entitled to a reduction in fees when attending a course at a centre.

The importance of environmental awareness is shown by the numerous well-wishers who support the Council by donations, gifts and bequests which have greatly helped to further its aims. The Leonard Wills Field Centre in Somerset was made possible through the generosity of the late Professor L. J. Wills, who held the chair of geology in the University of Birmingham, in memory of his father.

General information about the work of the Council may be obtained from the FSC, Preston Montford, Montford Bridge, Shrewsbury, Salop SY4 1HW, United Kingdom. The Centres welcome overseas visitors and believe that international co-operation is essential for the effective care and respect for the environment which it is convinced is vitally necessary to ensure our livelihood now and in the future. We hope New Zealanders will visit us.

Dale Fort Haverfordwest, Dyfed SA62 3RD; Tel: Dale (064-65)205. Shore and marine biology, coastal islands, diving, ornithology, geology.

Drapers, Rhyd-y-creuau, Betws-y-coed, Gwynedd LL24 OHB: Tel: Betsw-y-coed (069-02) 494. In a National Park; geology, mountain biology, woodlands, freshwater studies.

page 40

Flatford Mill, East Bergholt, Colchester, Essex CO7 6UL; Tel: Colchester (0206) 298283. Aquatic and salt-marsh biology, ornithology, the North Sea Coast, East Anglican churches and buildings.

Juniper Hall, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6DA; Tel: Dorking (0306) 883849. Biology, contrasting chalk and heathland ecosystems, geography and geology of South-East England, conservation and public pressure.

Leonard Wills, Nettlecombe Court, Williton, Taunton, Somerset TA4 4HT; Tel: Washford (098-44) 320. Freshwater and terrestrial biology, geography, the Bristol Channel coast and estuary, Exmoore National Park.

Malham Tarn, Settle, North Yorkshire BD24 9PU; Tel: Airton (072-93) 331. Biology, contrasting limestone and acid sandstone ecosystems, freshwater, moorland, conservation, geology, geography, National Park management.

Orielton, Pembroke, Dyfed SA71 5EZ; Tel: Castlemartin (061-681) 225. Coastal biology and geography; oil pollution research unit.

Preston Montford, Montford Bridge, Shrewsbury, Salop SY4 1DX; Tel: Montford Bridge (0743) 850380. Geography, archaeology, biology.

Slapton Ley, Slapton, Kingsbridge, Devon TQ4 2QP; Tel: Kingsbridge (054-580) 466. Coastal and terrestrial biology, large nature reserve with deciduous woodlands and freshwater lake, geography and conservation problems.

Epping Forest Conservation Centre, High Beach, Loughton, Essex IG10 5AF; Tel: (01-508) 7714. A purpose built non-residential centre; visitors and many London school children attend courses; displays on conservation and an information desk.
Fig 2: Location of the Field Centres.

Fig 2: Location of the Field Centres.