Why I’m joining the People’s Walk for Wildlife on Saturday 22nd September

Peoples walk for wildlife

If you live in the UK and have an interest in wildlife you’ve probably heard about the event that takes place in London this coming Saturday:  The People’s Walk for Wildlife.  If you follow that link you’ll find a video of Chris Packham explaining what the walk is all about and why he’s organised it, plus logistical information, timings, etc.

Karin and I are going to join the walk and I thought I’d give a brief summary of why I think it’s important for people to take part.

If you watch the video you’ll see that Chris does a great job of laying out the issue of wildlife loss, a loss not just of species but of abundance.  There are species that still can be found in Britain but which have declined in numbers by 90% or more over my lifetime.  Such species can be found in all of the major groups of biodiversity in this country:  birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians, insects and other invertebrates, fungi, and plants.  Many, many millions of individuals gone from our countryside.

Why has this happened?  Well, the causes are complex and inter-related.  Agricultural intensification over the last century has been a major issue as I’ve previously discussed on this blog in relation to pollinator extinctions.  But that’s only part of it. Another big problem that we have in the UK is an unwillingness to let nature just get on with itself.  We feel that we have to manage everything: Too many ravens?  Cull them.  Hedgerows or road verges looking a bit untidy?  Cut them.  Old tree infected with a fungus?  Chop it down.

In part this mindset is linked to an idea of what natural heritage should look like, an idea of order within a landscape, of making the countryside look pretty, and of doing things simply because that’s what our predecessors did.  A good example was recently tweeted by Dave Goulson who had found mole traps on a Natural Trust property that he visited; as Dave rightly said:  “When will we stop slaughtering harmless wildlife that causes us the tiniest inconvenience?”  There is no reason in this day and age to kill moles – what conceivable harm do they do?  In fact, as ecosystem engineers, they are an important part of the ecology of the British countryside.

One of the reasons why this is happening largely unnoticed by the government agencies responsible for the environment is that our landscapes change at a very slow rate.  Indeed places like the Lake District or the Scottish Highlands or the Chiltern Hills look much the same as they have done for hundreds of years.  Visually they are still stunning places to visit and that’s why they attract millions of tourists every year, and also why people enjoy living there.  But they have lost much of their wildlife and, with it, some of the ecological function that makes them work as ecosystems.  If this continues then natural processes such as dispersal of seeds by birds and mammals, and the subsequent maintenance of tree populations, will cease.

But that’s okay isn’t it?  Trees and shrubs not establishing themselves: go out and plant them by hand.  Is this really what we want?  If it is then we will end up turning our countryside into a museum.  And not even a very good museum at that: not a museum with dynamic interactive displays, rather a static, dull set of exhibits that you can only peer at through dusty glass.

So that’s why we are joining the People’s Walk for Wildlife next Saturday: this is an important issue and people need to show government that they are concerned.  I hope you agree and I hope you will join us.

Dave G. has promised to come dressed as a bumblebee; I’ve seen his costume and he’s a man of his word, so it’ll be worth looking out for him.  I can’t promise anything so flamboyant but I may well take a placard that says something like:  “Save ALL of our pollinators, not just bees!”  If you spot it, do some over and say hello.

8 thoughts on “Why I’m joining the People’s Walk for Wildlife on Saturday 22nd September

  1. Deborah Ambrose-Coombs

    Good luck with the walk….sadly my kankle means I can’t join you. I wonder that you are not going to wear some kind of costume tho, having such a passion pollinators and a great sense of humour…I will not forget the lecture that started with the boy with the golden lock on his tummy 🤣🤣

  2. spamletblog

    Bravo! I wish more people would come out and speak up against the tidiness and ‘tradition’ excuses for mindlessly trashing things.

    I recently tried to explain that hedgelaying was one of these ‘traditional’ pursuits that is being ruthlessly followed by many ‘conservation tradition experts’, despite the fact that very few of them are actually needed to keep in stock or keep out deer any more. Too many beautiful semi-mature, new linear woodlands with a wide range of habitats, are being turned into little more than fences, for no reason other than misguided habit, and the personal pride of those who treat hedgelaying as a competitive sport and just claim it’s for the wildlife, when a little thought can establish that it, clearly, is not.

    Similar terrible things were being done to lovely sunken tree lined tunnels grown up along dry stone walls in Devon last time I was there. The walls provided shelter when there were no trees: then they act as promoters of new tree lines and shelter belts: then, just when they are at their magical best, festooned with mosses and lichens, and paths carpeted with bluebells, someone comes along with a chainsaw and turns it back into a windswept bare muddy track again. (No doubt further incentivised by all the ‘green’ living enthusiasts with their woodburning stoves and central heating: and chainsaws.)

    You say the landscape hasn’t changed much: I’m afraid I can’t agree. I have to avert my eyes when I get to travel around now. Seeing what isn’t there any more just moves me to tears.

  3. Pingback: Is there really a “battle for the soul of biodiversity” going on at IPBES? | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

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