What is the best way forward?

How do we move the politics forward?

What is the best way forward?

Postby admin » Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:49 pm

This new forum has been opened because the debate over issues relating to the ABFG, the BMS and their at times roller-coaster relationship is likely to increase, so such a forum seems worthy of its own space. As David Edington has noted in the General Discussion pages, the BMS recently issued a questionnaire to all its members and ex-members about the way it should go forward. More or less at the same time Pete Stevens of Natural England kindly made an offer here to host a meeting between the BMS and ABFG with the purpose of establishing where common ground exists and whether it can be built on.

By way of a considered response on the ABFG's future course and a possible solution to the desirability of cooperation, an article that is due to be published in the June issue of the Forayer magazine has now been inserted, ahead of publication, in the News section of the ABFG online website. The article may be of interest to forum readers. It takes up too much space to copy here but you can access it by clicking the link: http://www.abfg.org/news.php

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Re: What is the best way forward?

Postby admin » Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:31 am

The article on the ABFG website news page has now been replaced by the second of two fairly candid examinations of the present situation. This second article, also published in The Forayer examines the history of, and reasons for, the collapse of the Red Data project. The fiasco that has dogged this vital conservation exercise, supposedly intended to give landowners, conservation agencies and the field community guidance on which UK fungal species are most vulnerable and in need of our protection is something that we should learn from so that it is less likely to happen again. It begins, as someone put it to me recently in terse fashion, to make us look like 'nutters in anoraks'. http://www.abfg.org/news.php

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Re: What is the best way forward?

Postby tomkirby » Thu May 27, 2010 10:37 pm

Having recently become "concerned" by the depth of feeling held by respected members of my own group, the NEFSG, over the BMS/ABFG positioning (a diplomatic term) I was tempted to fire off a few ill-chosen words on the subject whilst I was still "hot"..so to speak.
I found that I cooled down surprisingly quickly and this caused me to question my own interest in the whole issue....i.e. did I really care and if so how much and would it last forever and should we marry.

I had, fortunately, a prepared tome which I was tempted to post immediately following Michael's post on the subject way back in June '09. I feel the the time time is right, or more right, right now. See below.

[b]Coming down firmly on the fence….and why not?

It is all too easy to distance oneself from a discordant situation and take the pragmatic high ground. Polemical strategy often uses this ploy as a means to an end….stand back from the fray and take a view. Let the battle rage without and then when peace breaks out, one can always claim to have been on the winning side; but this BMS/ABFG contretemps is bringing about such polarisation that unless we declare allegiances and support right now we will loose one or both of these immensely valuable resources.
To be frank, the previous paragraph is more than a little tongue-in-cheek. I am sorry to say that I for one am becoming immune to the cris de coeur of BOTH protagonists. To make oneself clear it is always best to speak with a single voice and so I cannot speak for anyone but myself. I am an enthusiastic amateur field mycologist not a war correspondent. My “hobby” is deep-seated and long-standing. It is born in woodland peace and silence and walks in grassy places and mossy denes. It takes me to sand dunes and swamps, windswept moors and dark pine forests. It cheers me with the presence of like-minded people and stimulates me by the wealth of knowledge proffered up to me.
So what on earth is going on? This beautiful world of wonder and safe intrigue is somehow becoming tainted by a dissent that has NOTHING whatsoever to do with fungi…the conservation of…the recording of…the appreciation of…the IMPORTANCE of:but more to do with the faintly obscene rhetoric of almost doctrinaire factions.
Its no good standing in the wings….one must just take some time to decide what one personally wants from what may easily become a lifetime interest: and from that determined perspective one can take as much or as little from BOTH camps (wrong word but forced upon me) as one wishes.
I am a fully paid up member of the Darwinian Believer’s Cult and expect that because both the BMS and the ABFG have advantageous characteristics they will survive into perpetuity as separate bodies, unscathed and perhaps enhanced by natural selection. It will be such a great pity if unnatural forces come in to play which detract from commonalities and take us into evolution by politics; politics which, incidentally, has long since become debased by politicians but which originally was a process of arriving at decisions by debate and reason.
Please, let us move away from this battlefield whilst honour is still not totally lost by either side, and if we must have an ongoing process involving policy and direction, and we do, then let such issues be determined by evolution….we have enough excellence in the BMS and the ABFG permit this diversification.
I just don’t want to hear about rancour, bitterness and blue funk. Frankly, I am at the point where stratospheric point scoring is going right over my head. I shan’t look up…I am looking at fungi, thank you very much.
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Re: What is the best way forward?

Postby GeoffDann » Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:36 pm

I'm an outsider to the ABFG/BMS political situation, but I'm keenly aware of the "political" situation between both groups and the "fungi-eating public". I'm only still posting here because the liberal wing of the fungi establishment convinced me to stay even though the conservative wing tried to chase me away. I've also now drawn comments like "who are you, the mushroom police?" when advising wannabe foragers from picking single specimens in an inedible state for hope of ID on a foragers site (I told them that I wasn't, but that I knew them. ;) ) There is lots of politics to go around.

What I want to say is this....reading this thread and the article it links to gave me a deja vu of when I joined the green party slightly over 20 years ago. I sat in a room for 2 hours listening to a bunch of people arguing about mind-numblingly boring internal politics, centred on the question of whether or not the green party could ideologically survive having only one leader. I never went back, and the green party as a whole nearly ceased to exist in the years which followed precisely because they appeared to outsiders to be "nerds in anoraks". In the real world a political party has one leader. It's a no-brainer.
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Re: What is the best way forward?

Postby admin » Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:03 am

I welcomed Tom Kirby's thoughtful post to this thread, and Tom and I are largely in agreement. I certainly concur with his view that our hobby should be ' born in woodland peace and silence and walks in grassy places and mossy denes. It takes me to sand dunes and swamps, windswept moors and dark pine forests. It cheers me with the presence of like-minded people and stimulates me by the wealth of knowledge proffered up to me.' Well said! But the fungi which are the object of our pleasure are also under threat. A new international society has just been formed in light of the deep concerns that fungi do not have the protection of other life forms, and because of this there has to be more to it than wandering the woods and glades in a haze of gentle euphoria that most of us would wish for.

tomkirby wrote:This beautiful world of wonder and safe intrigue is somehow becoming tainted by a dissent that has NOTHING whatsoever to do with fungi…the conservation of…the recording of…the appreciation of…the IMPORTANCE of:but more to do with the faintly obscene rhetoric of almost doctrinaire factions.


In certain respects, if the two organisations, BMS and ABFG, cannot find a common agreement, the dissent does have to do with conservation. For most field enthusiasts the pragmatic solution is probably to forget any idea of concordance and for the two bodies to go on their separate tracks. In many respects this works OK, but in others it doesn't, and in the latter instances, UK fungal conservation becomes the loser.

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Re: What is the best way forward?

Postby GeoffDann » Sat Sep 04, 2010 9:09 am

Can somebody please explain to me, briefly, what the core of the disagreement is?
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Re: What is the best way forward?

Postby david dell » Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:55 pm

The BMS can't stand anyone straying on to their grass.They run two forms of membership.Members are Important people in either the Fungi business or academics.The associate members are those to be found grubbing round looking for fungi in the field.They have no votes in the society.
But the seniors hope that rare items may be sent to Kew to add to the collection.The database fed by the local groups and others is run by a commercial company and not the BMS,even though they (BMS)gave it to the NBN. I will avoid commenting on the Red Data List!
I am an ex-associate member who gave up when they sent the subscription system for "Field Mycology" to the continent.
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Re: What is the best way forward?

Postby admin » Mon Sep 13, 2010 8:44 am

GeoffDann wrote:Can somebody please explain to me, briefly, what the core of the disagreement is?


david dell wrote:The BMS can't stand anyone straying on to their grass


David is essentially correct in his assessment, though one has to be careful to avoid generalisation. The recently formed Field Committee of the BMS (the Society is now divided into 3 sub-branches) is made up by and large of individuals who one feels care passionately about fungi, but who maintain the rigid ideological conviction that the ABFG should not have been founded in 1997, and that the BMS should therefore adopt a robust strategy of restoring its monopoly over all aspects of mycology, including amateur field mycology. These people do not necessarily reflect the views of the wider BMS membership.

The ABFG was founded to provide services that the BMS did not provide, or in the view of many people could have provided better. In 1997 there was, for example, no field magazine, and Field Mycology was only published after the ABFG had been successfully publishing the ABFG Journal (forerunner of the Forayer) for some time. There was no PL insurance available for groups and by similar token it was only after the ABFG had been running its own PL insurance services for several years that the BMS elected to emulate this and operate a similar scheme. To cut a long story short the ABFG proved popular, perhaps more in tune with the needs of the field community, and now benefits from the greater share of field membership. But there remain those, often in senior positions, who deeply object to its actual existence and make little secret of their antagonism. In some respects we are seeing a deja vu of what happened between the RSPB and the BTO when the latter was launched and, closer to home, when the British Lichen Society split from the BMS.

Although the more general roots of discord rest with the entrenched beliefs of an influential minority, much of the present 'heat' emanating from that same minority revolves around whether mycological field data should be managed in the most effective way, or whether its management should be dictated by politics. As David has pointed out, prior to the advent of CATE, which is run by and financed by the field community, vital conservation projects including Red Data and Biodiversity Action Plan lists. plus the Important Fungus Areas list, were all in a state of perennial stagnation because, largely, the FRDBI, managed obscurely by an employee of CABI, not the BMS, is not technically of a standard to deliver on these projects. Anyone who has attempted to analyse data online on the FRDBI will understand this. CATE has received tremendous cooperation from the majority of the field community along with organisations such as the National Trust, but we can't employ CATE for all of the purposes for which it was designed, most significantly to produce a qualified Red Data list of threatened and vulnerable UK fungi, while a deeply resistant minority refuse, on political grounds to copy data into the system.

In many respects the efficient management of mycological field data has evolved as a 'flagship' enterprise of the ABFG, on which the Association has placed very substantial investment, both in terms of money and labour, to develop an effective state-of-the-art data system, so this has become an important issue.

It's a bit more involved than that, but you probably now have the gist of matters.

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