By this point you’ve probably seen some of the media coverage of the State of Nature report. If you haven’t, you can see the BBC story HERE, or coverage in the Guardian, Independent, and Telegraph. Alternatively, you can download a pdf of the report HERE.
It’s an incredibly worrying and bleak picture, with around 60% of the 3,000 species surveyed in decline. There are myriad reasons identified, but ultimately it all comes back to one causative factor: humans, and our obsessive belief that ‘growth’ is good.
If you think about it, all we are fed from the media is that the economy is or isn’t growing. We need to stimulate growth, we must grow, we must develop, we must expand. But that expansion creates the conditions that throttle our wildlife and wild spaces. The need for more housing, as cheaply as possible, means what gardens we create are fenced off, denying animals such as hedgehogs room to develop breeding territories. More people means we need more food, again, quickly and cheaply. So we move towards mega-farms and happily use whatever chemicals are necessary to make this profitable, regardless of the impact. We need more power to drive this growth and run our homes, so we chase gas through ecologically damaging means, despite studies that show a long-term commitment to green energy would actually save us money.
Everything is short-term, because we incentivise our politicians to make the quick, easy choices. You get the politicians you deserve, and if we ask for quick growth, more power, more money, and now, we shouldn’t be surprised that we get such poor decisions.
That being said, and while I’m not a supporter of any particular political party, we do seem to have an especially bad bunch at the moment. Tony Juniper wrote an excellent piece in the Guardian yesterday, detailing some of the “anti-nature narrative in UK politics“. It’s an excellent piece, and I highly recommend you read it, and follow the links in there to see some examples. The “burden of legislation”, the defence of pesticides that harm pollinators, the pursuit of ineffective culling strategies, the downgrading of environmental education. All are symptomatic of a Government that places ‘growth’ above any appreciation of the natural world that surrounds us.This is then reflected in the silence of DEFRA and Natural England on State of Nature.
The sad news is, nature can drive the economy, it is vital to the economy. It is vital to our continued survival, as it costs a lot more to hand-pollinate than to just let the bees do it.
One that Tony doesn’t mention is the recent idea that developers can bulldoze the few wild spaces, nature reserves, as long as they offset it by building elsewhere. The ignorance inherent in this folly is staggering. A fully-functioning, thriving reserve takes decades to become established. It can be destroyed in days. You cannot ‘offset’ this. It’s not possible. When it’s gone, it’s gone. There is a myth that less than 10% of the British countryside is developed. it’s true that less than 10% has been built on, but a further 80% is commercial farmland and forest. The actual wild spaces are shrinking towards zero.
But even today, just a day after the State of Nature report, we have the horrific news that Natural England have issued licences for the destruction of wild buzzard nests. Why? Because they may be affecting commercial game stocks, namely pheasants. If this sounds frighteningly familiar, it’s because they tried this last year, and dropped it when there was public outcry. Result? DEFRA and Natural England just did it anyway, and didn’t bother telling us. The sheer arrogance of an elected official deciding that they can ignore the public and keep them in the dark should ensure they never return to power.
All this emphasises the value of making ourselves ‘nature literate’ and of ensuring that the next generation are brought up appreciating, loving, and valuing wild spaces. We need to get involved, wherever possible, in conservation work, and in opposing unwanted development. There are plenty of waste spaces in towns that are in decline where new houses could be built, it just costs more. We also need to reconsider our own attitude to growth. Just when did we decide that the population should always be growing? When did we decide that growth was always good?
Emotional/mental/spiritual growth is good. Economic growth? Maybe not so much, certainly not at the expense of our wild natural spaces.