• The end of the year is nigh

    Barring an environmental catastrophe (which really would be a bad way to end the year), this will be my last post of 2011. 

    It has been quite a year.   I have a fabulous new job which allows me to support the breadth of the RSPB's conservation work.  And I get to visit fabulous RSPB reserves like Abernethy, Bempton Cliffs and Dove Stone.  That can't be bad.

    2011 was the year that the coalition government began to outline…

    • 20 Dec 2011
  • In praise of those who give to charity

    I enjoyed an icy evening carol singing with the neighbours yesterday.  It is rare that I have a chance to exercise my baritone voice in public (or in private nowadays thanks to my daughter's sensitive ears) and so I made the most of the opportunity.  While we worked our way through some of the classic carols, the kids ran door to door collecting money for charity (alas not the RSPB).  Apart from one house with a rather…

    • 19 Dec 2011
  • A surprising thing - part 2

    This week I posed the question - which are the 5% of vertebrates that you cannot find on the current RSPB nature reserve network?  And, thanks to my colleague, Mark Gurney, here is the answer:

    Pool frog, Silver Bream, Common Sturgeon, Bleak, Allis Shad, Stone Loach, Barbel, Vendace, Gwyniad, Houting, Gudgeon, Burbot, Grayling, Lesser White-toothed Shrew, Brandt's Bat, Nathusis' Pipistrelle, and Myotis alcathoe…

    • 16 Dec 2011
  • A sad day for badgers and for farmers

    This afternoon in the House of Commons, Caroline Spelman announced that the UK Government is to proceed with a badger cull.  This is a contentious decision and I’m sure one that she will have thought long and hard about.  It cannot have been easy, the coalition was committed to pursuing a cull but there are also strong arguments against.  The Secretary of State is in a difficult place.

    I will try to set out my thoughts…

    • 14 Dec 2011
  • A surprising thing

    I learnt something new yesterday.  Have a look at the table below (sorry if it looks a bit wobbly).  It gives you an indication of the diversity of wildlife that can be found on the RSPB's nature reserves.

                                      Britain      RSPB     %
    Total                          47,423      15,253     32
    Vertebrates               419            397          95
    Other invertebrates   1,132        186          16
    Other arthropods       2,890        653          23
    Insects                       23,619      8,644       37
    Fungi                         11,873       3,649       31
    Algae                         4,900         27            01
    Land plants               2,590         1,697       66

    • 14 Dec 2011
  • Thought for the day

    There are a few quotes that don't need elaboration - they speak for themselves.  Here's one that seems particularly apt given the rhetorical flourishes to which we are becoming accumstomed in these austere times...

    Kenneth Boulding, President Kennedy's environmental advisor nearly fifty years ago said, "Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either…

    • 13 Dec 2011
  • Durban climate talks - the verdict

    On Sunday morning, at about 3am Durban time, a deal was struck to try to prevent catastrophic climate change.  While most of the headline writers this weekend have been focusing on the fall out from the European Summit, the implications of the climate deal are beginning to be understood.

    For much of Saturday night I was receiving email bulletins from my two RSPB colleagues who have spent the past two weeks (and much of…

    • 12 Dec 2011
  • Nature's vigil

    Today, the day that the Durban Climate Change talks conlude, this blog is having it's own private vigil for nature.

    Here's hoping the decision-makers invest as much energy in reaching a satisfactory conclusion to the climate talks as they will to this weekend's European summit.

    I will give you our verdict as soon as I can.

     Mountain Hare, Cairngrom National Park, Highlands, Scotland Tom Marshall (rspb…

    • 9 Dec 2011
  • A promise is a promise

    There’s lots of talk at the moment, not least in Durban, about what new commitments governments might make to help save the planet. But we shouldn’t forget one very important promise the UK Government has already made – in the revised England Biodiversity Strategy - to prevent any human induced extinctions of known threatened species before 2020.  As I have blogged before, this is a bold and rightly ambitious…

    • 8 Dec 2011
  • And in Durban - a small bit of good news

    Credit where it's due.  Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has once again displayed leadership in helping to tackle tropical forest destruction.  We are pleased that the UK Government has started to give money bilaterally to countries whose GDP would normally disqualify them for aid.  We are also pleased that they are funding work in the Cerrado which is far less glamorous than Amazonia but is, nonetheless, an incredibly…

    • 7 Dec 2011
  • Naturally at your service

    It is a week since the Chancellor made his autumn economic statement.  Since then I have been delighted by the response from our supporters.  Hundreds of you have told us that you have written to your MP to make the case that wildlife and the natural environment don’t need to be sacrificed for growth - that they can be at the heart of our economic recovery.

    And it seems others share our view. This article appeared…

    • 6 Dec 2011
  • Biodiversity and business - natural bedfellows?

    Timing can be everything.

    Last Monday, on the eve of the autumn economic statement, a new report, Pricing the priceless, was released alongside the second Global Business and Biodiversity Conference.  If only the Chancellor had chosen this as his bedtime reading that night, how things would be different.

    The report starts with a wonderful quote from Anton Chekhov's, Uncle Vanya (a play I remember watching my wife perform…

    • 5 Dec 2011
  • A joint appeal to the Prime Minister

    Here is the letter that was featured on the front page of today's Observer...

    Dear sir,

    The environmental movement has spoken out repeatedly against policies that put short term profit ahead of our countryside and wildlife, eroding our natural capital and quality of life.

    But rarely have we been as incredulous as we were on Tuesday, upon hearing the Autumn Budget Statement. The stunning disregard shown for the…

    • 4 Dec 2011
  • That was the week that was

    I have been a little distracted this week.

    I blame the Chancellor.

    But while Tuesday’s announcement created a lot of heat, two other notable things caught the eye.

    First, it may have passed you by but the latest talks to secure a global agreement to prevent catastrophic climate change started in Durban this week.  Our man, John Lanchbery, and our woman, Mel Coath, are playing their part trying to influence a deal…

    • 3 Dec 2011
  • The economic statement - the devil's also in the detail

    As with any statement on the economy, the devil is in the detail and it is worth delving to see what is being proposed.

    In addition to reopening debates about an airport in the Thames Estuary, announcing a £250 million package to help energy-intensive industries meet the costs of their carbon emissions targets and reviewing the Habitats Regulations, the Chancellor proposes further reforms to the role of statutory consultees…

    • 2 Dec 2011
  • The Habitats Regulations - the case for the defence

    We are still reeling from the Chancellor's economic statement. I summed up our mood in an interview I gave to Farming Today (about 8 minutes in).

    We can just about live with a review of the Habitats Regulations.  As in the 2006 Davidson review, we think that the regulations will stand up to scrutiny.  They have served us well for seventeen years during a period of unprecedented economic growth.  We will, of course, engage…

    • 1 Dec 2011