GOB 114 – Green Alliances
This article first appeared in Birdwatching Magazine, March 2019 edition
Has it ever struck you just how scattered and fragmented our conservation areas and wildlife protection movement is – a bunch of green cliques rarely coming together; our differences dividing us rather than being united by our common aims.
Are you a member of half a dozen wildlife organisations? I belong to the BTO, RSPB, county trust, my local bird observatory and two tiny independent conservation groups. I also visit reserves run by the National Trust, WWT and the Hawk & Owl Trust, an independent national Nature reserve and two privately run conservation initiatives… mostly in my county.
The wildlife lobby is nationally strong only because the RSPB is Europe’s biggest member organisation… but remember the Rio Declaration ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ because we MUST! Chris Packham’s Manifesto for Wildlife shows us what we should be doing for wildlife, but nothing will change unless we get together ALL the local wildlife organisations in our home areas and thrash out action priorities and combat threats to wildlife.
Just what are the major threats to your local wildlife? We tend to get enraged about massive highway schemes or proposals to urbanise our precious local green lungs. While that’s worthy, it too fragments our push for the creatures that have no voice.
My own priority is to focus on that which threatens most continuing harm? I can readily bring half a dozen things to mind, let me choose just one and give my agenda for action. My shortlist of issues to tackle at the same time include banning hedge flailing, stopping autumn sowing, confronting light pollution and keeping cats indoors. But, way top of the list is the indiscriminate use of chemical concoctions on the land.
What can we do? Well, firstly lets ‘take the pledge’ like the Victorian temperance movement. We, as individuals and organisations need to pledge never to use pesticides, non-organic fertilizers or herbicides on the land we own or manage. Each of us can have a say about our own backyards. Think of the massive effect there would be if every garden and allotment were managed organically. We each need to decide why we garden… whether its’ to grow more food, enjoy the beauty of flowers and shrubs or to create our own little havens. For the last twenty years my postage stamp patch has never had anything spread or sprayed on it apart from ‘blood & bone’, organic compost or the product of my own compost bin. Yes, there are times when the ‘pests’ get their way, but I can live with the way my roses get caked with blackfly and the Solomon Seal Saw Fly strips every leaf down to its bones. If the slugs get too much of a problem it’s amazing what can be achieved with a torch and bucket.
So, we take the pledge and push each of your local conservation groups to do so too. What’s next? Let’s use our voting power to stop the local council from ever using chemical sprays again – what’s the point of all my efforts if the council splatters my fences with glyphosates! There are alternatives most of which call for manpower to weed or strim.
Once we’ve conquered the local authority we have to bring pressure on every commercial property owner too. Supermarket grounds can be great for wildlife, so can the grounds of schools, residential care homes, hospitals and the like, not to mention beer gardens, restaurants and social clubs. If we can persuade local managers to adopt an organic stance I bet this will have knock on effects across the country.
Next, we have to talk to our neighbours. With a sustained effort we could make chemical use in our cities, towns, villages and wider countryside as unacceptable as smoking, drinking or spitting in public. Let’s replace ‘best kept’ competitions with ‘most wildlife friendly’ ones – and leave our grandchildren a greener country.