In July this year, I set off on a nationwide bioblitz. Over ten days we visited fifty sites spread over Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England and included a great range of habitats and locations - from National Nature Reserves to allotments, from municipal parks to new housing developments. With the help of 785 recorders and 13 recording centres we clocked up a notable 4828 different species, many new to the sites, the county and a couple new to the country! We met about 15000 people and together celebrated the enormous and valuable species richness of the UK’s wildlife. But there was a downside...
Between the sites we gazed over vacant landscapes, ravaged countryside and denuded environments. Many of the species we encountered were registered as in serious decline, both in terms of distribution and population. As the ‘State of Nature’ reports so authoritatively alluded, our wildlife is in big trouble.
Recent biodiversity indicator figures from JNCC and DEFRA seem to indicate a modest improvement but these data worry me because many indicators are based on land use/protection and not actual species monitoring. It is critical that the government makes accurate assessments both to satisfy the requirements of reaching its global (Aichi) targets and in terms of shaping the new Environment Act.
Following in the footsteps of the Bioblitz I am organising the first Peoples Walk for Wildlife in London on September 22nd. I feel it’s time that all of us that have grave concerns about the health and wellbeing of the UK’s natural resources and species stand up and demonstrate our growing frustration. We have so many tried and tested solutions and so many effective practices to effect good conservation, but we are simply not implementing them rapidly or widely enough to make any meaningful difference. And with the declines as acute as they are, it really is a case of now or never.
But let me be clear this is a walk, not a demonstration. Of course, we have criticisms of various bodies' policies, or lack of them, perhaps most pertinently the conservation movements own shortcomings, but we are not rising up to blame anyone. I want it to be a forum for progress not ranting or recrimination. I want a creative outcome and to this end, we will be tabling some new ideas for consideration and discussion.
Most of all I hope that this assemblage of passionate people, young and old, from hedgehog rehabilitators to street tree campaigners, from scientists to school children will send a peaceful message to all the decision makers that it is time for meaningful action. I hope it will show that caring is no longer enough and that we are finally going to take action to draw attention to the plight of our wildlife.
A government should listen to its people, and as we reach a critical point in the planet’s history, in our history, it is imperative that all valid ideas and essentially all validated science be central to the informed decision-making that we need to secure a future for life. Facts, not politics or money, must come first. And the fact is that our wildlife needs us, and it needs us more than ever.
One more thing; we want the Peoples Walk for Wildlife to be very family friendly so we have a raft of ideas to get children and young people involved and to celebrate their interests and creativity – please check the website for details.
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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