Today is a big day.

For the first time, all the UK wildlife organisations have joined forces to compile a health check of nature in the UK and its overseas territories. This evening Sir David Attenborough will help us launch a new State of Nature report. We expect it will serve as a wake-up call to all of us to do more to help us live in harmony with nature.

 The report comes in my favourite month of May. A time to reflect on the wonder of those birds that have migrated from Africa to breed here– species such as swift and swallows – a time to take pleasure in seeing our woodlands carpeted with bluebells and to enjoy seeing butterflies again after the long, dark days of winter. But there are real fears that the things we take for granted may not be part of our children's lives when they grow up. 

In my lifetime, once common species like the turtle dove has declined by more than 90%. Cuckoos down by 73% and nightingales down by nearly 50%.  And my former employers,Plantlife, has shown that we are losing, on average, one plant every year from counties in England.

In preparing State of Nature, we have used new and innovative analyses include trend assessments for over 3000 species, and red-list assessments of over 6000 species; mostly derived from data collected by the UK's army of dedicated and skilled volunteer naturalists. Our analyses conclude that 60% of the species for which data are available have declined over recent decades; 31% strongly so. Nature is in flux. Over one in ten of the species assessed are threatened with extinction in the UK.

 Understanding the state of the natural world is the foundation for nature conservation. We need to know what's in trouble and what progress we have made. This report reinforces the conclusions reached in 2010: that nature is continuing to decline, the pressures on the natural world are growing, and our response to the biodiversity crisis is slowing.

We know that we all need to do more to inspire moral, political and practical support for nature conservation.

And this is why, following the publication of the report we shall challenge all sectors of society to do more for nature.

  • Politicians that have repeatedly committed to recovering threatened wildlife populations need to think about the natural world when they make big decisions about where to cut and where to invest.
  • Developers need to respect and protect the special places that people love.
  • Landowners should manage their land with wildlife in mind.
  • Businesses must find ways to make a profit without trashing the environment.
  • And all of us can do our bit by taking action for wildlife in our gardens and in our communities.

We are not claiming to have all the answers but we're determined to do much more.  We hope that the report, produced in this time of austerity, stimulates a public debate about what else we need to do to live in harmony with nature.

If you have thoughts on this or any aspect of the report, I'd be delighted to hear from you. 

  • Martin, "We hope that the report, produced in this time of austerity, stimulates a public debate about what else we need to do to live in harmony with nature."

    Well I was hoping to stir up some debate here but it seems not to be! One last thought:

    You mention austerity - that is the key to this. Economics. You appeal to the self interest of people, 62 million of whom in the UK have no connection to nature (63m - 1m voices for nature !!) I know I'm overstating again but you get the point?

    We all know we are in economic turmoil, we all know that society around the world is in turmoil also to varying degrees (dare I mention Woolwich?). One million of us in the UK know that the carry capacity of the planet is being overshot by 2.7 planets worth.

    Where is it all heading? What is the plan? More of the same???? Only a handful do anything about it, make a noise, setup a local community self help economic scheme, get involved, write bird atlases etc etc.

    Talking amongst  ourselves (the fraction of the 1 million that is) is getting us nowhere so employ a high profile set of celebs to talk about this on mainstream media - 9 O'clock slots. Really spell it out! Make people understand that economically, capitalism in its current globalised form is bust - there is masses of evidence to back it up. Non of the mainstream parties can fix it and Professor Roubini is predicting it will get very much worse in the not too distant future with a new financial bubble about to burst.

    We need a change of economic system and administration of it, not a futile oscillation between political parties all playing the same unwinnable game.

    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?

    A transition to a new economics that puts people, society and the planet before corporate greed started by enabling the masses of people needed to really make a diffference see where their true interests lie.

    I seem to have one in agreement - Charles Clover in last weeks Sunday Times. Your economics department is also sympathetic but sees no role for the RSPB in making it happen.

    If you really believe your own rhetoric you'd be fighting tooth and nail.

  • Rob, the vast majority of people are ignoring the dangers anyway! Including those you'd think would be most concerned as I discovered when I recently suggested to my local ornithological society that they should campaign for the birds that they absolutely know are declining!

    Attenborough stated in his recent series on Africa that 50% of the Congolese rain forest is earmarked for logging. Did you find any mainstream discussion about that? Do people know where their chemically improbable mix of atmospheric gases comes from?

    I can't remember a time when Sir David was not there on my TV screen (I'm 61 years old!) highlighting the wonders and threats to the natural world and yet the trend is still heading in the wrong direction (at a frightening pace).

    Something tells me the current strategy of keeping our collective heads down and keeping stum is not working or is it that the NGO's have succumbed to the "crushing weight of established orthodoxies on economic, ecological and social issues" over  the decades as a staffer at Forum for the Future recently put it to me?

    Something has to change if we are to avoid what we all know is happening!

    I recently suggested to Jonathon Porrit and Mike Clarke that they combine forces with all the other environmentally concerned organisations within the framework provided by Forum (under the Natural Capital banner) in order to reach the currently disconnected. Jonathan had the good grace to feedback albeit in the negative but nothing from the RSPB. Where is the debate in that?

    Perhaps its just evolution in action as a number of people knowingly inform me? We will eat ourselves out of a living and there really is nothing we can do about it.

    Or maybe we adopt the tactics of Mr Farage who, whatever you think of his politics, knows how to get his message across and seems to have managed to get his agenda up in neon lights for all to see. He seems to have done it by overstating the dangers of EU membership IMHO.

  • Martin

    We all fear facing the mirror too close - but I'm not seeing enough NGOs challenging us consumers to face up to our own responsibilities!

    I deeply understand the trouble nature is in but '60% of wildlife' has been commonly referred to and does seem to infer all wildlife?!

    Quote from the report synopsis   -

    "There is a lack of knowledge on the

    trends of most of the UK’s species.

    As a result, we can report quantitative

    trends for only 5% of the 59,000 or so

    terrestrial and freshwater species in

    the UK, and for very few of the 8,500

    marine species. Much needs to be done

    to improve our knowledge."

    There is real danger  - like climate change – that if you overstate, you will terrify people into ignoring it all together!

    aye aye


  • Redkite states "It is excellent that the wildlife organisations should combine to produce this report. It gives the report much more force than if it was produced by just one or two organisations."

    Could not agree more and yet try getting them to join forces in the political arena and you won't get very far in my experience.

    Martin talks of "stimulating a public debate about what else we need to do to live in harmony with nature."

    I would suggest the ideas expressed in Jonathon Porritt's "Capitalism as if the Earth Matters" which proposes emulation of the bio-sphere's "dynamic equilibrium" in balancing five forms of capital: Human, Societal, Natural, Manufactured and Financial. Alternatively the Green Manifesto as described by Caroline Lucas and Michael Woodin.

    I would suggest these brilliantly crafted expose's of contempory capitalism and its modern day globalised implementation but for the eerie silence from the authors at a time when Nigel Farage gives a masterclass in visibility and getting his message across while the world appears to be collapsing in on itself both economically and ecologically !!

    Others are stating to get it, MadameGeneva comments upon the Daily Telegraph article "IMF tells George Osborne to borrow more to plough into infrastructure to bolster the UK's 'nascent' recovery":

    "How marvellous, my simplistic spreadsheet projecting

    economic recovery by 2047 that I've been banging on about is now verified by the IMF !

    Starting with the end 2012 UK Balance sheet I assumed 1.8% linear growth in GDP and withdrawal from EU at last years contribution/benefits rates. Anything less and the National Debt grows exponentially (at the rate of £1 trillion every six years initially).

    1.8% will be a major miracle if the UK pulls it off given past performance, the starting position and the mix of enterprises making up the UK portfolio dominated as it is by the Services sector (10% of which is financial services).

    Which leads to something truly scary. In the Sunday Times last week Dominic Lawson drew attention to economics professors Nouriel Roubini, the so called Dr Doom, who was a lone voice warning of the 2008 sub-prime meltdown and who is at it again this time warning against "Credit Crunch 2" so soon after 2008 and based on the growth in stock markets around the globe.

    Another financial bubble based on money speculation rather than anything solid like making things and selling them!

    When we going to demand an economic system that works on a human scale, that ordinary people can understand, that even the economists can understand.

    The obvious  is often the hardest to see and talk about I guess!"

    Well said! When will all shout from the rooftops "enough is enough"?

    The economic and ecological issues are inextricably entwined. Solve the economics and the rest follows?

    But then, as I've discovered, the vast majority of people delude themselves that "there is nothing we can do" and that their self interest lies in the materialistic, consumer driven world they've evolved into.

  • I have downloaded the report and started to read it. Let's hope the politicians finally start to listen.