Sunday, 27 March 2011
An interesting question
How far is it possible to manufacture a "natural" environment, we might ask. And after how long does a species stop being the equivalent of an illegal immigrant and receive its ecological Green Card? Conservation has become a philosophical as well as a practical minefield.. Thus a review of T C Boyle's thirteenth novel When The Killing's Done in this weekend's Financial Times. This is a topic of interest to me as a grower of a so-called 'exotic' conifer which has been grown here since it was introduced by Scottish planthunter David Douglas in the 18th century. When did the potato, to take one example, become a welcome naturalised feature of the British landscape? This is a debate which I look forward to having, and hearing all the arguments at our autumn Moffat Book Event on the themes of identity, provenance and terroir - to be grouped conveniently under the umbrella title 'Belonging'. At the cellular level, identity is vital so that the components of a toe know that is not an ear. Of course, we are not just collections of cells - but people seem to need a narrative which includes familiar features in the landscape, shared history, accepted customs and practices and so on. Who we are and how we live together is a process moderated by the law but in some senses elastic, a moving target which from time to time is worth pausing to consider.