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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 07:26 GMT
Language row versus environment
Iolo ap Dafydd
By Iolo ap Dafydd
BBC News

Welsh - Cymraeg sign
Is the language more important than the environment?

Are Welsh speakers interested in climate change?

Not as much as they should be, according to Dafydd Watkin, who works as a freelance translator.

In a recent article in a new Welsh language ecological magazine, "Y Papur Gwyrdd" (The Green Paper) Mr Watkin said very often environmental affairs did not get the attention they deserve amongst Welsh speakers".

"It's as if green issues are only of interest to those who do not speak Welsh."

The editor of Y Papur Gwyrdd, Hywel Davies, goes further: "I've been told by environment pressure groups that they have problems attracting people who speak Welsh to be working members of ecological societies.

"They can't understand why so many Welsh speaking people are averse to be involved with their type of groups when so many Welsh people are fervent members of charities, of the CND movement, of Amnesty, etc."

Y Papur Gwyrdd is published independently without any state grant.

"I tend to think we spend too much time using the Welsh language to talk only about speaking Welsh," said Mr Davies.

"Or we use Welsh just to talk about Wales and issues which are relevant to Wales.

"We need to use the language to discuss one of the world's main talking points at the moment, which is the planet's future."

The Welsh Language Society [Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg] has been at the forefront of Welsh language issues in Wales for decades.

It has 1,000 members, and Iestyn ap Rhobert, who is employed as a communications officer, does not agree that Welsh speakers are less interested in green issues.

Hywel Davies
Hywel Davies thinks Welsh should be used to talk about all issues

"Cymdeithas yr Iaith supports environmental issues, but we have to prioritise our resources to campaign for a law to protect the status of the Welsh language," he said.

"Most of Cymdeithas yr Iaith members are supportive by nature, of the green debate."

Mr Watkin said the point of the article was not to attack Welsh language activists, but to raise a debate that the argument for equal status of Welsh has deterred many Welsh speaking people from being involved wholeheartedly in sustainability and environment problems.

According to Mr Watkin: "It doesn't seem as yet, that the Welsh see a connection between the Welsh language and our linguistic heritage, with concern for the environment."

There may be another problem, connected with the thorny issue of English moving to live in Wales.

Both Mr Watkin and the Y Papur Gwyrdd editor Mr Davies feel that many Welsh people connect being seen as "green" with incomers to rural Welsh areas from England.

Mr Davies said: "Many of the people who move to Wales from England form environment societies or become involved in local ecological affairs.

"And I worry that it's likely that we, the Welsh speakers, have come to feel that these issues are for them alone, and that the planet's future is to be discussed only in English."

Rhiannon Rowley
Rhiannon Rowley wants Welsh to be utilised in the community

Morgan Parry, head of WWF Cymru feels that for many years this may have been true: "As those who volunteered for work with the National Trust, or with wildlife trusts were English, and all events were held in English.

"It's to be welcomed they became involved in environmental affairs, but we need to look at creating a situation where both languages can be utilised."

Llandeilo is the first Welsh town to be included in the Transition Town scheme, which encourages and inspires a network to support and train communities as they consider, adopt and implement to become more sustainable locally.

Many of those involved in Llandeilo are English speakers, and Rhiannon Rowley, who runs an organic bedding firm in nearby Ty Croes says it is hard to attract local Welsh people to participate.

"As Welsh, we seem to have a bunker mentality," she says. "And I think we're at fault. We tend to say, 'they can do it' to those people who've moved here, and seen how beautiful the countryside is here.

"There's very little point in speaking Welsh in a wasteland. We need to make sure we sustain our Welsh communities into the future."

Her first language is Welsh and Abaca Organic Living Limited sells 99% of its hand made mattresses in England, despite using Welsh wool and employing six staff outside Ammanford in Carmarthenshire.

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