Harry Barton's Letter

Dear Earth,

You are everything to us. The wildlife that lives in every corner of your immense form, in all its colour and variety, is the single greatest gift to humanity. Here in Devon, with its rippling green hills, brooding purple-brown moorland and wind whipped sea, with its everchanging lights and colours, we are as fortunate as anyone, anywhere, in how we benefit from this. Watching a starling murmuration swirl, disintegrate and reform in the sky while the setting sun catches the spray ripped off waves as they curl around Burgh Island is to experience just a tiny part of your unfathomable and complex personality.

We rely on you for all we have, but we are still growing up. We have assumed great power, but we have yet to learn how to use it with wisdom and foresight. We are taking much more than we are giving, and we don’t understand the consequences of what we do, or worse, deny those consequences when it suits us. And that is why we’re inflicting so much pain on you – pain that we all too often don’t see, hear or pay heed to.

Technology has taken us to new places. We can watch a multicoloured insect we’ve never heard of clambering amongst the stamens of a tropical flower high up a tree we can never climb in a remnant of forest that we’ll never visit. We can wonder at an image of you taken from the outer solar system and be reminded of how small you are in the vast ocean of cold, hostile nothingness, and how incomprehensibly fortunate we are to have this comfortable living space we call home. But we can also disappear into an imaginary universe of computer games, spreadsheets and social media, warping our perspective and blinding us to reality. Or slash and gouge at your skin in our quest towards a misguided ideal of progress.

How to reconcile our needs and desires with yours is the single biggest challenge we now face. Our vision is limited to what we can perceive, and our understanding will only ever be partial, but we can be better than this. We want to be better than this. But to do so means being a lot braver and a lot more honest with ourselves, and with you. Perhaps the best way to start a new beginning is to make some resolutions.

So here are our four promises to you. We promise to do everything we can to put back some of what has been lost, and to help others do the same. We will do this in our towns and cities, in our gardens and farmland, in the uplands, the valleys, in rivers and lakes, and in the seas around us. We promise to help and encourage as many people as we can to experience, enjoy and understand the wonders of nature that inhabits every part of you, and to value and cherish it. We promise to give more and take less. We will stop polluting the air, the soil and the waters you provide, and do what we can to make good the damage we’ve done. And we promise to do everything in our power to understand more, presume less and to see you from a perspective other than just our own. We will stop viewing you as a resource, and instead as something we love and respect as a member of our own immediate family.

Thank you for giving us yet another chance.

Harry Barton, Chief Executive, Devon Wildlife Trust

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