Get Your Hands Dirty, Urges David Bellamy

Posted on: 07 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Michael Wale meets David Bellamy and is swept aside by his enthusiasm and a note of controversy.

He may be grey haired, he may be 75, but David Bellamy has as much environmental fire in his belly as ever. Mind you, some of it is quite controversial.

For a start he was emphatic when he told me that he did not believe in global warming, reasoning that trees had come back to the edge of the Sahara, and the weather in Britain is as it ever was. His belief is that there have always been contrasts in weather. The coldest ever winter he recalled was in 1947, followed by an equally hot summer.

For the record, last April was so hot that there were heat wave conditions. This April it was, literally, freezing. So far May has been warm and dry while last year it was cold and wet.

He lives now in the Pennines and says his garden has attracted back all the species of butterflies that had vanished.

"We have had an immense struggle against rabbits and deer who attempt to eat all our vegetables. I remember that in the Second World War rabbit was the only meat we had to eat. I learned how to catch, skin and gut a rabbit. We must learn to do things like this again."

What has ruined the English countryside, he feels, was the European Union Common Agricultural Policy. As a result the English countryside was trashed, as hedges were grubbed out, and fields made into prairies.

"The reason we are in a mess is because we have messed up all the organic soil, and the idiot green people urged everyone to use bio fuel, and look where that has landed us - with food shortages," he says.  "Greenpeace has actually said that bio fuels are against humanity. Mind you they also say that David Bellamy is an enemy of humanity!  As far as the global warming argument goes, I would point out that the temperature has not fallen since 1998, and we've been pumping carbon dioxide more than ever into the atmosphere."

David Bellamy was in London as part of Covent Garden's Spring Renaissance programme, which has seen the building of an allotment in the fashionable piazza.

It was there that he gave a talk on composting, and I asked him whether composting uncooked kitchen waste is possible if you live in a high rise flat, or any other tight inner city space.

He says that you could always buy a sealed wormery and just put your scraps in daily, and leave the worms would do the rest. "There's a lid so there is no smell." he stresses.

It was a nostalgic visit for him because he had been brought up in London, and much of his youth was spent here in Covent Garden when it was a fruit and veg marketplace.

"I wheeled the barrows of produce and earned money, although because of the unions in those days this was not meant to happen. What I really remember is the wonderful smell of fruit and veg in the centre of London."

Strangely for a man who has spent so much of his time in the open air and campaigned for so many good causes in nature, it comes as something of a surprise to hear him say that one of his most favourite place to be these days is on the London Underground. However he has a rational explanation, as he reminded me he is a scientist, a professor and has many qualifications after his name, and therefore there are logical reasons for this statement.

"You really feel the multi-cultural experience of this great city. There are so many nationalities of people down there, all together. I would just like to say to them 'get on your mobile phone and ask someone to create a Green Corner'."

Green Corners is an annual competition to find the best Green Corners in London from window box to allotment. Lindsey Grant drives it on publicly, and long may it exist and succeed.

But there is this dreadful push-pull feeling in London as developers want to eat up every open space.

David Bellamy puts it simply: "Everything environmentally could be saved by community action."

Let that be the starting message!

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The Conservation Foundation was founded in 1982 by David Shreeve and David Bellamy to provide a means for people in public, private and not-for-profit sectors to collaborate on environmental causes.

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