I was reminded how this precept applies not just to we humans but to countries too, when I left my own homeland of British Wales to spend a few days in France on a family visit. I had spent some time in this part of Normandy, where I was, many years before but had forgotten the differences between two neighbouring nations the lands of which had been fought over and taken over back and forth by each other so many times over many centuries.
Like its people, the landscape of the seaside town where I was has great charm, with villages largely unspoilt by the unimaginative development of the UK in order to retain the medieval buildings and narrow cobbled streets which are a natural feature of Normandy. Markets take place there every day or every week just as they have done since the towns were established, with a variety and quality of food on offer which is impossible to fine in any place I know in the UK. The fruits of the land are respected and treasured, and I saw no overweight person there. I can understand why a life in France seems idyllic to those who live elsewhere.
I was struck by the way in which the French people co-operate with the world of nature, and by their priorities. The countryside is beautiful, the farms are neat, and there is a sense of control as the land is put to work to help the humans there. The needs of wildlife are secondary to those of the people, and many of the aspects of life on Earth that are important to me and many others in Britain are not considered at all. I saw no ponds in the gardens or the rural areas even from the air; pollinator gardening is, I suspect, unheard of, hunting of song birds and most moving wild creatures is a common sporting pursuit; and there are very few birds to be seen. The generous, caring relative with whom I was staying is trying to encourage birds into her garden, but the big difficulty is finding bird food to buy: bird food suppliers are big business in the UK but seemingly scarce in France, and what is provided at supermarkets is poor by comparison with the choice and quality of what is available in Britain and elsewhere.
France and Britain…so close and with so much shared history, but so different in ethos, priority and temperament, each being themselves and doing it very well. There is much we can learn from each other nonetheless – and it is interesting that the greatest learnings are, in very different ways, about the honouring of the treasures of nature.]]>