Give me a land of boughs in leaf
A land of trees that stand
Where trees are fallen there is grief
I love no leafless land
A E Housman
If you want to wrench every last ounce of misery out of a story there’s no better mood-setter than Housman. “I love no leafless land” is the message we are being given about the apparent imminent demise of our ash trees, all 67 million of them, from a virus which has been blown over from Denmark. We know that our trees are going to perish because, so we’re told, 90% of Denmark’s have. But if you look closer at the story, it’s not so gloomy after all. Firstly, it turns out that 90% of ash trees have perished in only certain parts of Denmark, not all of it. Secondly, if 90% have gone, that means that 10% have survived, which makes sense as the ash is so genetically diverse. So the truth is, it isn’t all doom and gloom after all, whatever the headlines say.
We love to hear bad news, which is why, when it arrives, the misery is always piled on thickly, but the reality is that underneath it all things are slowly and surely getting better in all aspects of our collective lives. The Adam Smith Institute has taken a leaf out of Matt Ridley’s book (see here and here) by publishing ‘Ten Reasons to be Cheerful’. Yes, there are more than ten, but it’s a bloody good start.