Conservation Heroes.

BBC Wildlife’s recent list of the Top 50 Conservation Heroes made for interesting reading. It’s all completely subjective of course and but for what it’s worth, I thought most had a strong claim for inclusion. Others were more dubious choices and one or two made me really think hard (was anyone ever brought to justice over the hen harrier shooting on Sandringham Estate?) Then there were some very obvious omissions – Roy Dennis and Sir John Lister-Kaye to name but two.

There was one name that didn’t feature and that was Peter Cairns. Now before you start hurling rocks at your screen, I’m not claiming to have done anything remarkable to conserve or enhance Planet Earth and that’s my point. I’m not on that list and I should be. And so should everyone reading this blog. By not being on the list, or at the very least aspiring to be, we’ve all fallen short. That’s not to belittle the contribution that many of us make on a daily basis but let’s be honest here, it’s not enough. The rather depressing fact is that Nature is losing the war.

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of a random list of individuals, some of whom appear thanks to their profile rather than their actions, the country as a whole could hold its head up as a pioneer, as a leader in global conservation? Think of the pride if we could proclaim to others the resurgence of hen harriers, the widespread reintroduction of beavers or the restoration of a million acres of wild land? The fact that there is a list of just 50 – or even 500 – is a reflection of society’s poor commitment to the future of the planet.

So what to do? I’ve been giving that a lot of thought lately and whilst pondering, my colleague Niall Benvie sent me an article he’d written for Outdoor Photography magazine. In it, Niall suggests it’s time to get angry. This month’s BBC Wildlife includes an excellent column by Springwatch presenter Chris Packham. In it, Chris suggests it’s time to get angry.

I’ve got to say that I agree. But angry with who? At what?

The System that’s what. The political, cultural and economic system that perpetuates the demise of the natural world. The System is wide-ranging, multi-faceted and extremely powerful. It is also morally bankrupt and if left unchecked, will poison our land, our seas and ultimately our own species. From that point of view, it’s also completely illogical, but it persists nevertheless.

I’m growing to resent The System and the fact that it justifies itself simply on the basis that it’s been around for a while. The same could once have been said of slavery.

Angry doesn’t mean abusive. Yesterday I got angry with my local council for their policy on strimming the roadside verges bedecked with wildflowers at this time of year. Today I got angry by signing an online petition to encourage an airline to stop doing business with SeaWorld in Florida. I wasn’t rude or overly aggressive but The System needs to know that people give a damn.

Just imagine if we all got angry with The System. Then we’d all be Heroes.




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4 thoughts on “Conservation Heroes.

  1. Good article, this week I have signed the petition to keep the fox hunting ban, volunteered at our nature reserve, photographed juvenile grey squirrels in a local park,
    berated my neighbour for employing goons to cut down trees at the foot of his property, admired my tubs of wild flowers and encouraged more friends to view my nature images. But it’s still not enough.

  2. Pete–I totally agree with all that you’ve said. Some of the names listed in the Top 50 smack of sycophancy. In terms of the struggle against the System , in my small area of ‘Taffyland’ ( as you normally describe it), I’m currently involved in the fight against the building of a motor racing circuit on 600ha of moorland adjacent to an SSSI, the construction of a new motorway which will destroy several SSSIs, the dualling of a road through an SAC and the cumulative effect of innumerable small developments which will destroy wildlife sites, hay meadows etc. Most of these battles will be lost due to the influence of vested interests, but now and again, small battles can be won. It’s so easy to become disillusioned and to give up, but that’s exactly what ‘they’ want.

  3. Hello Peter
    I met you for the first time on last night’s Winterwatch Unsprung and really enjoyed listening to you.
    The Aldo Leopold quote struck a chord with me and although I can’t remember the actual quote I do intend reading his book; ‘A Sand County Almanac’.
    What hit me reading this particular blog of yours was when you said you’re growing to resent the system; I feel exactly the same way too.
    I live in an area which is mainly livestock farming.
    It is on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and has some great landscape, but too often I am seeing the degradation of that landscape and its wildlife ; mainly by too heavy a land use by farmers.
    I see pollution caused by industrial waste (from the paper industry) being “legally” spread on un-improved grassland, at the time of the year when ground-nesting birds are attempting to further their species, this at the permit of the Environment Agency, the very lot that are supposed to help prevent such pollution.
    That is just one example of many.
    It makes me angry, almost to the point where I’ve begun to detest farming, and even more so when one realises just how much public money is being poured into that industry.
    So I am trying to alert people to be aware of such bad practices by sharing my thoughts, and feelings, via social media.
    That said I am actually a part of that industry in a way; I catch moles for the local farmers, something I’ve done for a long time, but spending so much of my time on the land does give me a much deeper understanding of the way our “countryside” is used, and abused.
    Being part of farming (in a very small way), and living in a farming community, makes it very difficult to air ones views without receiving backlash in some way or other.
    It is people like you that inspire me to keep on fighting in my own little way.
    Andy Holden.

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