This might sound like an obvious statement but it amazes me when I pause to reflect on the sheer scale and levels of sustained abuse society has thrown at our precious burns, streams and rivers.
We now have been left with a legacy of gross mischief caused by successive generations of governments, people and corporations. Since the start of the industrial revolution our running waters have been subjected to an unceasing onslaught of diffuse pollution, dam building, over-grazing, toxic discharges, dredging and sometimes sheer bloody minded neglect. Sometimes this has been in ignorance, sometimes it's been by greedy or arrogant design. In many cases I feel our rivers have formed the front line in the battle between the development of human kind and the natural environment.....many battles have been lost. The victors know not of what of they do: as a world that looses it's connection to nature drains the very lifeblood from our souls that knits us all together.
All hippy'ish stuff I hear you cry....but is it? Squandering our natural resources for short-term economic and political gain will mean a poorer outlook for future generations. Rivers aren't just for fishermen they are for society as a whole. In my mind clean healthy rivers are good for our souls as well as ecology. For instance, urban rivers that have been restored inspire whole sections of the local community to come together to enjoy the natural environment in a way that they dare not even contemplated. The river is now the focus. Litter disappears and anti-social behaviour moves on. Projects on the Wandle in London and the Lancashire Colne are testament to that.
When we talk of conservation and restoration I really do feel that we should place a higher value on human health and well being. How many times have you walked alongside a river, paused and just taken the view in. It may be that there was a trigger...the electric blue flash of a kingfisher or perhaps a mayfly emerging on an epic quest to complete it's life cycle. You then, perhaps, re-commence your journey feeling slightly uplifted..I know I do!
A few months ago I spoke to a non-fisher who whilst hurrying to work crossed a bridge over recovering industrial river. It was dawn and he happened to glance up to see a fly fisherman in mid-current. It stopped him in his tracks. He described the angler as a beacon of hope. It was only 10 years previous to that the river in question was so polluted it was devoid of all life. He was amazed that life had once more returned to the water and was truly inspired by what he saw. He's now a member of WTT!
WTT is a grassroots organisation and we recognise that people are just as important as the cause we are fighting for. This is in terms of our volunteers, staff and the public, but also our children and grandchildren and their children. We must seize the opportunity to stand up and be counted and fight for the right to pass these priceless resources on in fine fettle. History will hold us to account if we fail.
In these days of high octane consumerism (even with a credit crunch) perhaps we should label our rivers as 'limited editions of one', perhaps even get them branded by Apple as iRivers. Who knows perhaps the iPod generation may start to value them for their true worth. It's not too late!