This week, I am on holiday with the family at our hut on the Northumberland coast.  Am hoping that the wind dies and the sun emerges for at least some of the time so we can get out and about a bit, maybe even escaping to the Farne Islands or Coquet Island.

While I am away, please do keep an eye on our Saving Species blog for updates on buzzards and our Saving Special Places blog for updates on cases that affect important wildlife sites.

Before I go, however, I wanted to let you know about a new series of guest blogs that I have arranged for the coming weeks. 

Last week's launch of our State of Nature report was a wake-up call for all of us.   The sad reality is that biodiversity is continuing to decline, the pressures on the natural world are growing and our response to the crisis is slowing.  This has influenced the RSPB’s own strategic thinking.  We know that we need to up our own game, we need to work better with others (last week was just the start) and we also know that we should be doing more to inspire more moral, political and practical support for nature conservation.  But, as a sector I think we are still searching for new ideas.
I am therefore keen to stimulate a debate about what else we need to do to live in harmony with nature.
To catalyse this debate, I have invited people with differing perspectives to propose One Big Thing they think we (either the RSPB, the nature conservation sector or society at large) should be doing in the next 2-3 years to kick start nature’s revival.
This week, I am delighted to be able to share the thoughts from academia, from land management community and from business.  In the coming weeks I hope to share the thoughts from young people, from the arts and further afield.  The whole series will be kicked off tomorrow by Tony Juniper.  

And if your tempted to contribute to the debate, why don't you tell me about your One Big Thing for Nature.  It would be great to hear from you and I'll share the best ideas through this blog soon.


  • Nightjar, Charles Clover's marvellous piece in the Sunday Times (26/05) efers to professor Nigel Dunnett and his ideas for utilising roof space in cities for mitigating run off etc. He also states we've "read it all before" with regard to species decline and the politically correct messages we are constantly fed.

    Martin, I am or was a part of the army of field workers, that input the data into reports such as the State of Nature. I've also assisted with two Bird Atlas books about to be published but I am totally disillusioned by the response to the question "So what are we now going to do with this evidence now?". The answer by and large is nothing other than to pass it to the BTO or RSPB for input into government who one presumes they think are going to sort it all out!

    Thats where we've been going wrong IMHO. If environmentally connected people can't see what actually happens, and with all due respect to Richard Benyon who is no doubt sincere, Jonathon Porritt's critique of the coalition's "Greenest Government Ever" statement is probably a fairer reflection of reality, or be persuaded that we are in a desperate fight for survival (because that ultimately is what it is) then how do you reach the 62 or 63 million people in the UK alone who are just not interested but could force change if they were? "We are stronger as a team" is one of the messages from the report.

    I was trying to stir up debate on your "Why the State of Nature Matters" blog but nothing doing and my last post hasn't been published. Yet I am echoing much of what was said by Sir David and others in the Natural History Museum video. That the current strategies are just not working. The RSPB does a marvellous job of holding the line with its conservation efforts but the campaigning performance is lamentable. It's just not visible to the general public and I suspect they (the public) don't understand the complexity of the arguments anyway. My last remaining brain cell is howling with pain!

    What the general public are interested in is what they perceive to be their self interest and currently that is under severe strain due to economic crises around the world. I bang on about the truly alarming state of the UK economy in two broad sheet blogs and have my own simple balance sheet calculations to back my arguments together with IMF and credit agency opinion.

    But who is grabbing their attention in the UK - Mr Farage! Where are the clever people who have credible green alternatives to globalisation? Why are they not hitting me straight between the eyes on the 9 O'Clock slots - really spelling out how the economic, ecological and societal problems that we can all see are inter-twinned and how the true self interest would be better served by an economic system that balances what Porritt sees as the five key forms of capital: Human, Societal, Natural, Manufactured and Financial (with Spirituality bundled into one or the other of them - I can't remember which!).

    Are they simply waiting for existing systems to totally collapse - very dangerous as history tells us or are they simply "crushed by the weight of established orthodoxies with regard to economic, ecological and societal issues" as was quoted to me.

    In my unpublished post on your other blog I suggested unleashing the following communicators:

    "Sir David is an obvious candidate but brilliant campaigners like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have achieved amazing results by spelling out what is patently obvious. Jamie Oliver is also brilliant at capturing hearts and minds. George Monbiot - would he be up for it? Brittany Trilford is high profile following her amazing speech to Rio+20, Jonathon Porritt - could he be persuaded to resume what was a brilliant TV debating career?"

    I'm sure there are many more. Ideas please. Victoria Chester was unknown to me but spoke very well at the report launch.

    I've funded the RSPB for 40 odd years, I'm campaiging as hard as I can and losing friends and alienating people in the process, but as I approach the departure lounge (I'll settle for another 20 years please !) I'd like to see some real action to address what is rapidly turning into a nightmare on all fronts.

  • I do hope you got to the Farnes, Martin - but from the howling gale here today I fear you may not have done ! There's nothing like a peck from an Arctic Tern to connect one to nature, and being amongst the nesting Eider, Terns and Puffins really re-charges the batteries.

    There's no doubt that nature conservation has lost momentum in the face of a ferocious assault from the neo-liberal right with their 'I'm alright Jack' and 'live for today, let tomorrow look after itself' philosophy.  It's a waste of time beating ourselves up about that - its not our fault and with a rumoured $100m + dollars invested in climate change denial in the US its hardly surprising skilled PR men have created uncertainties in the public's mind - exactly as they aimed to over smoking and health.

    But it is right to examine where, even if things have not gone wrong, they could have gone better and its hard to come to any conclusion other than that a change of gear is urgently needed. Rather like the challenge facing the labour party, nature conservation must now present a compelling alternative to the status quo and to do that two things are required>

    First, conservation now has to step over the boundaries of sectoral interests: ecosystem services is about much more than bigger nature reserves, we cannot continue with the 1947 settlement that puts agriculture above every other value of the land and pouring more and more concrete is not going to stop thousands o homes flooding every year - a new settlement on land use and planning is urgent, and not just for the birds.

    Second, and very much linked, we need a positive vision of the future: of our towns and cities surrounded by accessible, wildlife rich countryside which also helps us balance water supply and runoff, produces low carbon fuel and makes a major contribution to wellbeing and happiness of the urban majority. Protest and saying no only goes so far, and in the last three years we've clearly run out of road.

    It is possible and its been done before: it's hard to conceive of an RSPB not involved in agricultural policy, but way back in the mid 80s there was a fierce debate about whether RSPB should be involved - I suspect Stuart Housden is the only current member of RSPB staff who remembers it - and it was far from a foregone conclusion. The story of the Forestry Commission from its hairsbreadth survival after the Flow Country in 1988 to overwhelming public support in 2011 is a similar story of fundamental change.

    And there are some superb foundations, built over the last 30 years by nature conservation and epitomised by RSPB's increasingly focussed, no holds barred approach to species and habitat conservation: behind all the doom and disaster is a very clear game of two parts: the species that have had that special attention have almost without exception actually done well : think Bitterns, Red Kites, Cirl Buntings, Nightjars, Goshawks - in increasingly stark contrast to the wider environment, increasingly intensive farming, more and more unmanaged woodland and a planning system yet to do the promised damage, but hanging, with its islands airports, like a sword of Damocles over our wildlife's heads.