When, as a young man, I gained a very modest tertiary qualification, I went out into the world as a know-it-all, pain-in-the-arse little bastard.
Now those of you who occasionally stick your head into The Bucket for a read might perhaps reasonably suggest that nothing much has changed, but I would beg to differ because I used to be much worse.
What has changed in the subsequent 40 years, is that I now understand that the lecturer's opinions, and the black and white texts I assiduously studied in my narrow field of interest, often bore only a minor and very tenuous connection to the kaleidoscopic colour of reality in the broader world.
I also learned somewhere along the way to be intensely self-critical, to understand how little I really knew, and that the sands of knowledge and "absolute certainty" were forever shifting.
My paper qualification was merely the key to the car of discovery,
and not a certificate automatically entitling me to provide advanced driving tuition to others.
Some environmental campaigners have yet to understand this.
Recently in Queensland three people were bitten by fruit bats from one colony which was subsequently proven to be carrying the potentially deadly-to-humans Australian Bat Lyssavirus.
A self-appointed spokesperson for the bats warned against proposals to remove the offending colony with an unconvincing assertion to the effect that; "If you make them mad, they will give off more viruses",
as though we were to imagine them as skunks or octopuses with an inclination to secrete defence clouds, but in this case laden with infectious viral material.
In effect he was suggesting that we should be held to ransom, and our movement restricted, by a single colony of flying foxes.
Fruit bats in Queensland are often present in plague proportions.
It would not be thus without the farmers who, in the first place, planted all the fruit orchards upon which the animals now feed.
I will rarely endorse interfering unnecessarily with any of our native animals, but in this specific case, where our health is placed at risk, and their survival as a species is not threatened, we are entitled to run the agenda, not the bats or their spokespersons.
Some years ago a fresh faced environmentalist seriously suggested that the thousands of coconut trees lining the beaches of Australia's tropical north should be removed, on the grounds that the species was "not endemic" to the continent.
Ignoring, apparently, any consideration that the coconut tree is one of the most useful-to-human plants on earth.
Coconut seeds could conceivably have floated across the oceans and germinated in our sand hundreds or thousands of years ago.
How far would he have liked to wind back the clock of evolution?
For the greatest chance of finding environmental truth and common sense I will go no further than being advised by those like Sir David Attenborough who have the appropriate combination of education, wisdom and life experience, and the ability to see both the forest and the trees.
P. S. There may well be more to the flying fox story than that which was published. Fruit bats do not normally flap around attacking random humans unless, I suppose, they (the bats) are totally blind, short-sonared and therefore mistake a tall skinny man in a yellow raincoat for a very large banana.)
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