• Vote for your farming heroes

    The RSPB has had a long and at times fraught relationship with farming.  It’s not surprising considering the loss of 300 million birds from Europe’s farmed landscape in the past 50 years.

    But after more than decade running our own commercial farm in Cambridgeshire, we have a much greater understanding of the pressures that farmers face and we also have direct experience of what it takes to recover farmland…

    • 31 Jul 2012
  • Book review: "Fighting for Birds" by Mark Avery

    When I accepted the job as Conservation Director of the RSPB, I knew I had big shoes to fill.  Mark Avery’s new book, “Fighting for Birds”, reminds me just how much he achieved in his 25 years working for the RSPB and, alas, the scale of the challenge that still remains. 

    The book is everything you’d expect from Mark: beautifully written, instructive, forthright and fun. 

    Although Mark claims this…

    • 30 Jul 2012
  • You asked the questions, the Deputy Prime Minister has provided some answers

    In June, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, outlined his ambitions for the Rio+20 conference in a blog here.  He kindly invited people to submit some questions (which many of you did).  We then asked him to come up with some answers. 

    While the process has not been quite as slick as Any Questions/Any Answers, the Deputy Prime Minister has taken time out from this hectic schedule (which those of you who read my blog…

    • 27 Jul 2012
  • Slow down, take a moment and look to the skies for swifts

    We sometimes take swifts for granted.  They travel 6,000 miles to see us every May, bring drama to the skies throughout the summer, then leave us to cope without them for another eight months.  One of my simple pleasures in life is sitting in my Cambridge garden with a beer (when the kids are in bed obviously),  and watching the screaming parties of swift in the summer evening sun.

    But swift are in trouble: a 31% decline…

    • 26 Jul 2012
  • Diminishing calls from the wild

    Ever since humans first cleared the wildwood and tilled Britain’s soils, the ground-nesting lapwing will have been a constant companion.

    In spring its plaintive ‘pee-wit’ would have been heard across every part of the UK from the uplands to coastal marshes and everywhere in between open enough to see a horizon.

    For me, the lapwing is one of our most beautiful and evocative birds.  It always elicits…

    • 25 Jul 2012
  • Rambling with the Deputy Prime Minister

    On Friday, I spent an hour in the Peak District with the Deputy Prime Minister.  There we are in the picture below - me with the green jacket and binoculars, he with the blue shirt and jumper.  The image, no doubt, poses a number of questions.  I've flagged up ten below and have even offered some answers...

    1. Why are there so many people surrounding the Deputy Prime Minister?  These fine people are representatives from…

    • 24 Jul 2012
  • Greenest 100m final ever?

    When Danny Boyle unveils his spectacular interpretation of our “green and pleasant land” at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Friday, I assume it will be accompanied by a stirring rendition of Blake’s “Jerusalem”, the poem that first described England in this way.

    As the nation sings along, some of us will also be reminded that another line from the same song inspired the title…

    • 23 Jul 2012
  • Responding to the Secretary of State on CAP reform

    On Monday, the Secretary of State outlined her vision for reform of the Common Agriculture Policy. 

    Here I outline our response.

    We need substantive CAP reform to realise what Biodiversity Minister Richard Benyon referred to this week as Defra's “determination to reverse the decline of farmland birds”.  The RSPB and our Birdlife partners argue for a policy that directs the funding - billions of Euros of…

    • 20 Jul 2012
  • The beautiful is as useful as the useful

    Loud raspberries greeted the announcement by the coalition that it had established a Natural Capital Committee (NCC) to understand the value of the UK’s environmental resources.  Such cynicism is perfectly understandable.  I know someone who was fond of teasing economists with the question  ‘ How do you value the smile on a child’s face when they hear the song of a skylark ?’ 

    There is also a real…

    • 19 Jul 2012
  • In praise of Defra

    I know it is not necessarily fashionable to heap praise on a government department, let alone Defra.  But as I listened to a debate yesterday at the Policy Exchange at which both the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman MP, and Biodiversity Minister, Richard Benyon MP, spoke, I felt optimistic.  Despite the cuts and occasional needless distractions, it is clear that some of the foundations for nature's recovery are now in…

    • 18 Jul 2012
  • Natural Environment White Paper: one year on

    Just over a year ago, the Westminster Government launched its Natural Environment White Paper, The Natural Choice.  At the time, we welcomed the White Paper – as you can see in my blog post from the day itself – as it met the majority of the ‘key tests’ we had challenged government to meet.  Today, I shall be going to an event in London where Defra ministers will be celebrating the White Paper and…

    • 17 Jul 2012
  • Guest blog on CAP reform from Secretary of State, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP

    Today, I am pleased to be able to host a guest blog from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP.  Here she outlines the UK Government's ambitions for reform of the Common Agriculture Policy.  There is still a long way to go in these negotiations but agreement is due to be reached in 2013.  However, I thought it would be good to hear more about the UK's ambitions now…

    • 16 Jul 2012
  • On a wing and a prayer: three tests for the UK aviation strategy

    I have been lucky enough to travel by air to some wonderful places to see amazing wildlife.   It would have been quite tricky to get to Mongolia or the Comores by train, boat or horse.

    But, I made a decision nine years ago to stop flying for fun.  Yes, I have jumped on board the odd plane to go to Northern Ireland or the Scottish islands when I need to for work.  I made this decision because I simply struggle to justify the…

    • 13 Jul 2012
  • Proving it is possible to produce more food whilst improving our environment...

    This week I have been focussing on the launch of the Green Food Project, and how we meet the challenges of producing more food whilst also improving our environment. 

    There are no easy answers, but it is possible to achieve both. In the 12 years that we have owned Hope Farm, we have increased profitability, production and seen a significant increase in biodiversity. The successes we have had at Hope Farm are not a one…

    • 12 Jul 2012
  • A tiny silver lining to a very dark cloud

    I think we were lucky yesterday.  Soon after I helped the Farming Minister, Jim Paice MP, launch the first report from the Green Food Project, the rain came down at the Great Yorkshire Show.  In fact, it was so bad that the remainder of the Show has now been cancelled.  A first in its 154 year history.  Please don't blame the Minister (or me) for this one.  It really is a terrible shame for both exhibitors and visitors. 

    • 11 Jul 2012
  • The Green Food Project: preliminary results are now in

    I’m at the Yorkshire Show today to help Farming Minister, Jim Paice MP, launch the first report from the Green Food Project.  You can read it here.

    I feel good about our report.  I say ‘our’ because it is the result of more than nine months’ work by a large and diverse group of people including representatives from Defra, farming and land management organisations, food retail and the environmental sector.…

    • 10 Jul 2012
  • Reforming the food system: having your cake and eating it

    At the beginning of the year, I recommended a resolution to those in positions of authority: to relentlessly pursue ways to decouple economic growth from unsustainable exploitation of the natural world.  So, it was great to listen to Ellen MacArthur at a Green Alliance debate last week and hear the one-time yachtswoman argue that increasingly companies were finding ways to decouple growth from resource scarcity.  She was…

    • 9 Jul 2012
  • How to save a species: the knee bone's connected to the thigh bone...

    I have spent much of this week at the Lodge.  This makes a change from my usual, slightly nomadic lifestyle.  I celebrated by spending my lunchtimes running round our reserve.  It has the halmarks of a true forest with its mix of woodland, heath and grassland.  And it felt right to be amongst this landscape as the future of our forests were debated this week.

    Most will now agree that it is important that we get the institutional…

    • 6 Jul 2012
  • GUEST BLOG: Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of the RSPB and member of the Independent Panel on Forestry

    My boss, Mike Clarke, was part of the Independent Panel on Forestry which published its report yesterday.  Here are his personal reflections of his time on the Panel and his thoughts on the way ahead. 

    I felt enormously privileged to be a member of the Independent Panel on Forestry, appointed last year in the aftermath of the Government’s decision to cancel its consultation on the future of our public forests.

    • 5 Jul 2012
  • Public forests should stay in public hands

    So the Independent Panel on Forestry report has been published.

    The stand out headline is that public forests should remain in public hands.  But, the report goes further by calling for the public forest estate to be managed by a securely funded public body, whose remit is focussed on maximising the estate’s full value to people and wildlife. There will probably be a collective sigh of relief for anyone who loves these…

    • 4 Jul 2012
  • Lament for a Nightingale?

    Is this the title Keats would give to his well known ode if written today?

    Over the last twenty years we have lost 60% of our nightingales in Britain, which means we are rapidly losing a wonderful, powerful and iconic voice of spring and summer.  Have you heard one this year yet?  If not, have a listen here - it will bring a smile to your face.  And go on, listen again.

    With the Independent Panel on Forestry due to report…

    • 3 Jul 2012
  • Wild about forests

    On Wednesday, the Independent Panel on Forestry publishes their much anticipated report.  Established after the public uproar over government plans to review the Forestry Commission and the public forest estate, the Panel's job is to map out a future for both England's public and private forests.  This feels like a good enough reason to dedicate this week's blogs to our fabulous forests.

    The public uproar in…

    • 2 Jul 2012