Publisher's Note
Table of Contents

Forestry: People and Places
Dennis Richardson



booksf1_small.jpg (6431 bytes)In the late nineteenth century my grandfather, James Mountford, was, unusually, employed as a private sector evangelist serving to salve the conscience and save the taxes of a wealthy backslider. I have never heard of another. In the tradition of John Wesley, who had been ejected from the Church of England for open air preaching, and a group called the Primitive Methodists, he travelled the highways and byways of Staffordshire on horse and donkey, delivering fundamentalist sermons. He preached powerfully, extolling, inter alia, the delights of Abraham’s bosom and the evils of Bagatelle. That he was successful is indicated by the fact that several of his tracts were published, and, in my teenage years, they gave me much pleasure - not so much for their content as for their use of the English language - resulting in my lifelong respect for the authorised King James version of Holy Writ. I cannot hope that my own grandchildren will come to a similar state of respect because of anything which I may write, but if I can communicate some purposes of language which go beyond the mere provision of basic information I will be well satisfied. The pieces published here have given me pleasure in their preparation and I hope they may have the capacity to entertain others.

It was said of Joseph Addison that he "transformed the essay into a civilising force, an engine against coarseness and pedantry. What he lacked in depth he made up for in a range of interests and his keenness of observation. He taught his readers to appreciate the middle ground of human nature, and fashion the perfect prose style for the purpose." (Gross 1991)

Essays are enormously varied and may be written about every subject under the sun. They share the virtues of informality and independence. Aspiring essayists might take as a motto the heading under which George Orwell used to contribute his weekly essay to "Tribune", and the sub-title I have presumed to give the first part of this book – "I Write as I Please".

It is implied that what I write pleases me too. This is not something that can be said of all the 250 research papers and consultancy reports to which I have appended my name. I have considerable sympathy with the swashbuckling scientist, Sir Peter Medawar, who gave a broadcast on the BBC Third Programme in 1963 under the title "Is the scientific paper a fraud?" He argued that the inductive format of the scientific paper gives a misleading narrative of the thought process that goes into making discoveries; that the discussion which traditionally comes last should in fact be presented first, and that the scientific facts and acts should follow it. Nor should we be ashamed to admit that hypotheses appear along uncharted byways of thought, that they are imaginative and indeed adventures of the mind. I have never had the courage to do this – nor the scientific status that would enable me to get away with it if I did. Some of the pieces offered here may be a surrogate for my deficiencies.

Opportunities for the publication of essays have never been greater and, in a report written in 1986, I deplored the reluctance of scientists to use the popular media more effectively to communicate their findings in readable English. Increasing public awareness of issues and options in science is a feature of the last decade or so. It was triggered by the technological quantum leap of space travel but, more recently – perhaps as a reaction – is manifest as a burgeoning demotic interest in things biological. This interest feeds on the television photogenicity of biological subjects, but the medium of communication is not limited to television. There is a range of glossy magazines serving semi-captive audiences which did not exist 30 years ago – airline passengers, credit-card holders, hotel visitors, city dwellers (who demand a different kind of parish magazine), company employees (house magazines), etc. All of them publish feature articles – often not closely connected with the apparent common interest of the reader groups; all of them from time to time treat bio-technological subjects and issues.

The book is divided into three parts. The first section comprises a series of short essays, published (or not) in a variety of journals and other media in the changing tradition of the essay. The second part separates some larger and more formal submissions from my professional career, dealing with Education and Research: and the third part of the book comprises presentations, of which only two ("Innovation and Prosperity" and "Learning from China") have been formally published; the others are lectures, serious of purpose but not without elements of controversy.

Dennis Richardson

Southern Hemisphere Forestry

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