In this final blog before thelongspring.com joins forces with sister site NATURAL LIGHT for the launch of my new website, I look forward to The People’s Walk for Wildlife on Saturday and look into the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife, published today.
TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham is the inspiration for both, and he and his collaborators have done a brilliant job.
Join us on Saturday from 10am at Hyde Park (things start happening from 12 noon).
The manifesto is one of the best digests I have seen of the gamut (nearly – see next paragraph) of broken mechanisms and possible fixes compiled by contributors without too much organisational baggage. Drawn up as if by a putative People’s government, it has contributions from leading independent voices under headings such as Ministry of Natural Culture and Education (by Robert Macfarlane), Ministry of Wildlife Welfare (by Dominic Dyer) Ministry of Wildlife Crime (Ruth Tingay) and Ministry of Wildlife Law (Carol Day). These cover well-established concerns with some no-brainer proposals (ban snaring, increase penalties and introduce vicarious liability for wildlife crime etc.), some radical-sounding ones (George Monbiot on rewilding, Mark Avery on - effectively - nationalising the uplands) and a few audacious ones (Robert Macfarlane handing over control of swathes of rewilding to 12-21 year olds). A few of the ‘Ministries’ are quirkily specific – Lead Ammunition, for example (Rob Sheldon); some fresh and to the point, with Mya-Rose Craig’s Ministry of Diversity in Nature and Conservation advocating much more than political correctness, but better conservation through challenging the mono-ethnic view of how people should engage with nature.
"our protected areas system contains not a single protected area"
The Manifesto is billed as a first draft. Good, because there is a bit missing. The protected areas network in the UK is a fundamental part of the current conservation model and its funding. It is not broken, simply because it has never worked. Never existed, in fact: it is a protected areas system that contains not a single protected area. In my book The Long Spring (left) I set out the UK’s shameful record on bringing the network into the required condition, and the governments’ (in all four UK countries) deliberate obfuscation of what the target condition actually is. I have recently written about the perpetually development-threatened Lodge Hill in Kent, where I grew up, as a glaring (but commonplace) example of how our so-called protected area network has failure built-in. The article is in press, for publication in November, but here’s the key point:
“Asked to name a bird that most encapsulates all that is important to people about the natural world, few would overlook the nightingale; asked how the species is doing, a conservation scientist would point to their 90% decline in the last 50 years; asked to pinpoint the most important site in the country, and Alexa would click open Google Earth and zoom in on Lodge Hill. Enough said, surely?” ...and...
“If conservation wins this latest battle, some will say that it proves the system works. But it’s a battle that has been raging since 2011 and like all the others, it is draining resources from conservation charities, business and government alike. Resources which should be invested in good development and great conservation. If it takes the best part of ten years to win no more than a reprieve, it proves the system is a failure. That’s if we win.”
"votes at fifteen"
And finally, a specific manifesto proposal of my own: lower the voting age to fifteen. No explanation needed.
Laurence Rose is a conservationist, writer and composer. He has worked for the RSPB since 1983.