Forget your perfect offering / by Hilary Hann

I was listening to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’ from his ‘Live in London’ album and in his introduction he says “We are so privileged to be able to gather in moments like this when so much of the world is plunged in darkness and chaos” and it made me pause to think.  Not so much about the darkness and chaos but more about how fortunate we are to be living now, in these early years of the 21st Century. 


Photographically it could hardly be more exciting.  Whilst some of us may decry the ease and affordability of cameras, it has given others a chance to explore their own artistic side through photography where costs may have made it impossible in years gone by. 


In much the same way I can also see how fortunate we are when I look at the state of the natural world.  Right, I can hear people say, she must be mad.  Not really and although it is true that the wilderness areas are diminishing faster than ever before and animals are disappearing just as quickly, at the same time there are many, many more people who are aware of what we are doing to the planet.  The internet has meant that we can all become pseudo experts on the causes and effects of what is happening and social media has meant that it has become quite difficult not to know about the destruction of the wild and beautiful planet that we live on.  We are sitting on the cusp of great possibility.  There is still time to make significant changes to the way humans use and abuse the resources of Earth and there is still time to save much of the wildlife that still remains.


Sometimes I look at the crowded wildlife parks and reserves in Kenya and despair at the behaviour of my fellow man.  Darkness and chaos seem to be appropriate words to use.  Finding solitude amongst the masses seems to be impossible.  Conversely, these people paying considerably amounts of money to see wildlife in the wild prove that there is value in maintaining wild places and the children they bring with them will be the hope for our future.  Balancing my desire to be alone in the wilderness enjoying nature the way I want to, I can’t deny the necessity that is a certain number of people enjoying those same areas and that their interest and money goes a long way to ensure the future of wildlife.


Wildlife ‘sinks’ within tourist reserves and parks, accessible to rangers only, where animals can retire from the intense gaze of the public is one thing that I find quite appealing.  Encouraging all tour operators to provide their clients with information on the ethics surrounding their behaviour when in these protected areas may just make a few more people think about what they are doing.  Rigorously applying the existing penalties to drivers, their employers and the clients when significant breeches of behaviour are made would be an excellent thing.


In the meantime many of us look longingly towards the past; at a vision of former wildlife glories; of places where we could stand in solitary splendour enjoying vistas of unsullied splendour, not realising that perhaps the remaining wilderness areas are really worth appreciating for what they still offer us, for they may be gone all too soon.


Leaving it to Leonard to say it better than most:


The birds they sang at the break of day

"Start again", I heard them say

Don't dwell on what has passed away

Or what is yet to be


Ah, the wars they will be fought again

The holy dove, she will be caught again

Bought and sold and bought again

The dove is never free


Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in