Why grown ups vote for the bad fairy

Could there be a connection between infantile aesthetics and some of our problems with the man and the environment?

The average garden in Budapest comprises a neat strip of green lawn and lines of flowers in primary colours. Probably there will be a row of decorative evergreens standing like soldiers to attention.

It is remarkable how similar this is to an archetypal drawing of a garden by a five year old girl. Reflecting on this, you suddenly realise that the horticultural aesthetics of the average adult are infantile. It is as if their ideal of a garden was fixed in the first few years of life, and never developed further. Thus Hungarian gardeners effectively have the mental age of five year olds.

This observation is not only valid for gardens. What does a five year old girl think of spiders? Hairy scary!! What about lions and tigers? Rooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrr!!!! And if you ask their parents, their thoughts about spiders and lions and tigers will be scarcely any more developed. Why else would they squash a spider without thinking twice? For the parents, a spider is merely an embodiment of something they learnt in a nursery rhyme thirty years ago.

A couple of weeks ago we were talking about the birds in the garden with an adult neighbour. She was delighted that there are woodpeckers and blackbirds, jays, and sometimes even a golden oriole in the garden. Then she turned to the roses and pointed to the ants which were crawling over them. “I mustn’t forget to spray those… You see, the ants eat the roses.”

To this I said, trying to pitch it at the right level: “And who eats the incy-wincy anties? Your little friend Woody-woodpecker!! So if you kill all the incy-wincy anties, then woody-woodpecker won’t have any food and then the naughty hungry-fairy will come, and all wood-woodpecker’s little babies in the nest will cry.”

She understood this and resolved not to spray her roses.

As long as people’s psychology of nature and natural aesthetics remains stunted and malformed in this way, nature will remain for them a picture book and a nursery rhyme. That one dimension allows no interconnections amongst different species and between the human individual and those species. So when it comes to a choice between forests or oil, beauty or vandalism, life or death, they will, unwittingly, vote for the bad fairy.

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