Updated: Feb 20, 2020
By Stuart Collier
‘If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise, if you go down to the woods today you won’t believe your eyes’….. Nature is dead! Not strictly true but what a state it is in, what a mess we have made.
How do we preserve some of the remaining strongholds? We build train tracks through them. We live in a state of ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ where our storybook view of nature takes us to our childhood, ‘when I was young’, well when I was young (excuse me, younger), I remember the ponds and streams being filled with frogs and toads. They simply are not there anymore, not just the amphibians but the habitat too, filled in and built upon. Think about it, picture your own area, how many houses have popped up (how many are still empty)? Trees lost? Roads built and so on. All at the expense of nature. When did you last see a hedgehog, a stoat or cuckoo? Sad hey?
We care about what’s on our doorsteps and perhaps challenge ‘eyesores’ more than ecocide, but do we actually care about our wildlife? Urbanisation accounts for approximately 10% of the UK’s land use, this figure is similar to the land left for forests. We have some of the lowest tree cover in Europe and indeed the world, yet we call our own deforestation ‘beautiful countryside’, however look closely and you will notice clues that the lack of trees was not always the case. Epiphytes, plants that live on other plants are clear indicators that the habitat used to be different, they are evidence of a temperate rainforest. Around 60-70% of the UK used to be a temperate rainforest. Look at the thorns on a Blackthorn tree, why on earth would they need them? Picture the Rhino which once roamed!
We need to rid ourselves of ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ and think about what once was and what could be again. We are a rich country, however we are nature poor, we need more nature in our lives! It's heart breaking to read stories about prisoners spending more time outside than children. What happened to climbing trees, building dens and camping outside?
I must ask the question; can we still consider ourselves a nation of wildlife lovers? I’m sorry to say I think not, we persecute pretty much every wild species.
Picture the scene, the year is 2300 (if our species survives that long), and there are people in South America, looking over a patchwork of farmland which used to be the Amazon rainforest commenting ‘terra bonita’.
There is hope! Things are changing and behind these changes are passionate individuals and local groups. The beavers are back and as far as I’m aware they have yet to eat a salmon, marine life appears to be thriving within marine protected zones, megafauna are returning to our coastlines, and local authorities are declaring climate emergencies throughout the country and pointing to tree planting as a key solution (learning that trees store carbon must have been a breakthrough moment). If we are still to call ourselves a nation of wildlife lovers, the time to prove it is now!
On 29th October 2020 we will be hosting a full day conference in Torquay, focusing on the conservation of British Species. Check out our event here.