On the radio this morning, in between interminable political stuff: a piece about conservation, and particularly about conserving a hay meadow near Cambridge. I’m not sure what was particularly important about this specific meadow – I was too busy driving to listen properly – but I did pick up the presenter waffling on about the natural landscape.
The meadow is next to a major road. “You can hear the traffic on the A14 behind me,” the presenter said, “showing just how we’re encroaching on natural landscapes like this.”
Which is utter and complete nonsense! A meadow is, frankly, about as unnatural a landscape as you can get. It’s entirely as unnatural as, say, Langham Place in central London. I’m glad the conservationist she was interviewing didn’t agree; presumably he knew better. There is a general impression people have, that if we let the land revert to a “natural landscape”, it would end up looking something like a Constable painting; it’s entirely false, and that’s exactly why landscapes such as traditional hay meadows have to be carefully managed if we want to preserve them.
Two things struck me about the coverage yesterday of Patricia Tabram‘s drugs conviction. Tabram, in case you didn’t see the news, is the Northumberland woman convicted of growing cannabis for medical reasons. She likes to claim that her conviction is part of a grand struggle for rights, like the right of everyone to vote, which is over-egging her pudding a little. She’s certainly been using her conviction as part of a broad political campaign,* but that’s about as far as the similarities go.
Anyway, interviewed on Radio 4 last night, she said something along the lines of: cannabis is good medicine because it’s natural. Prescription drugs are not because they’re full of chemicals.** Which, of course, is a load of nonsense. Some people like to use the word “chemicals” as if it’s some dark, lurking evil, and like to imply that anything grown on a plant is healthy and implicitly Good For You. Despite this, you rarely find them tucking into a nice meal of potato fruit and yew seeds.*** How many different chemicals are in your average pill? A handful. How many different chemicals are in a marijuana leaf? Thousands.
Tabram also said that prescription medicine made her feel suicidal, but cannabis had no side-effects at all. That’s her experience, though. Everyone has different side-effects to any sort of drug, “natural” or otherwise; I’ve known several people who have had bad psychological reactions to cannabis. It may be relatively innocuous, but just because you’re fine with it doesn’t mean the person next to you will be. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.
* Standing against Peter Hain at the last general election, appearing on the telly a lot, trying to get people to call her “the cannabis gran”, that sort of thing. I had second thoughts about mentioning her here, because I don’t like giving publicity to publicity-seekers, but frankly this blog is a drop in the ocean.
** Not her exact words, but that was the message she was trying to give.
*** I shouldn’t need to say this, but potato fruit are rather poisonous, and yew seeds are very poisonous indeed.