Ahead of speaking at BBC Countryfile Live today, our former Director General and author of The Fight for Beauty Dame Fiona Reynolds tells us why beauty and beautiful places matter more than ever.
I’ve been fighting for beauty ever since I was aware that there was a fight.
My wake-up call came as a student. I realised that what I fell in love with as a child – the beauty of nature and our countryside – was not only created by humans but was at perilous risk of being destroyed by humans.
The 1970s was a damaging decade.
The book that fired me up – Hoskins’ The Making of the English Landscape – set me on the path of a lifetime’s work for the charities who have done so much to protect the beauty of our surroundings: CNP, CPRE and the National Trust.
And through my own fights for beauty: campaigning for reforms to farming and forestry policies, to curb the damage caused by thoughtless roadbuilding and uncontrolled housing development and to protect landscapes, buildings and wildlife, I learned the story of all those who’d gone before.
My book, The Fight for Beauty tells that story: the people who’ve campaigned for beauty, why it matters and why we need to revive that fight today.
Because today, astonishingly, beauty is a word that has been written out of the official script. Once, in response to luminaries such as Ruskin, Abercrombie and Trevelyan, politicians passed laws to protect beauty and recognise its importance.
Now we seem embarrassed to use the word, and even when we really mean beauty we use techno-language like ecosystem services, or natural capital: words which will never capture the spirit-moving, uplifting joy that beauty brings – or should bring – to all our lives.
We all need beauty; and not only for our own wellbeing.
Taking beauty seriously will help us find a route out of our obsession with growth towards a more sustainable future; richer in the non-material things money ckan’t buy and respecting the resources of the world we depend on.
Join the debate at BBC Countryfile Live – at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, until Sunday 7 August or on #CountryfileLive.