The TV presenter calls for action on loss of species
WHILE MINISTERS TRY TO WATER DOWN WILDLIFE LEGISLATION, THE LOSSES CONTINUE. I’VE HAD ENOUGH – HAVE YOU?
Does it depress you that the new UK government felt the urgent need – just weeks after the General Election – to slash support for clean onshore energy and try to water down the fox-hunting ban in England and Wales? Our government actually seems proud to flaunt its warped view of nature and its appalling complacency about the environment crises facing us.
At times like this, I can’t help wondering: what will it take? What catastrophe will finally nudge us over the edge? What tragedy will wake us all from our lethargy and shake us into action? What will be the dire news that at last compels each of us to say, “Enough is enough – it stops here”?
Will it be the last male cuckoo, heard in a lonely grove and then chased by twitchers until it falls silent and fades away? Might it be the final trill of a lark draining from a vacant sky, or a glimpse of an endangered hedgehog in some secret spot?
Perhaps it will be something that harms us – neonicotinoids in the organs of unborn children, drinking water forever contaminated by fracking, or a homegrown nuclear disaster – a Chernobyl in Suffolk, a Fukushima in Somerset. It could be dead fields, devoid of crops because of devastated soil, or a flooded capital city…
…but let’s hope not. Let’s hope that some smaller disaster pre-empts such apocalyptic horrors and alerts us to the grave situation we’re in. Sadly I can’t see any urgency in our government (others in Europe aren’t any better).
How many politicians who bickered through this spring’s General Election did you hear mention the environment? I wanted to make an informed decision with my vote. But no one made clear that they appreciated the critical need to implement solutions that would begin to secure a sustainable future for our species – and all the others on which we rely.
I fear history will scowl at their neglect and follies. I worry that your grandchildren will lament this short-term stupidity, when reading about extinct things that once announced spring with song and fluttering flights, and with scents, colours and displays that stirred human hearts.
So: what will it take? Why isn’t it enough to know that since 1970 we have lost 44 million birds from our countryside? (This sad statistic is from the report The State of the UK’s Birds 2012, but things have got a whole lot worse since then.)
Forty-four million. Lost since we landed on the Moon and Gordon Banks pulled off “that save”, since I crept into a holly hedge, found my first dunnock’s nest and crouched in awe of those eggs, of a wondrous blue hue that lit a star in me for birds.
Forty-four million. Can you conceive of that many birds vanished? I try – I picture fields smothered in ghostly plovers, hedgerows bowing under the weight of tonnes of zombie finches, thrushes, sparrows, wagtails and buntings… a sky choked with the wraiths of falling doves, waders, swallows and martins. Then I think of standing in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland, its heather bruised by the iron sky, rain hammering down on its hellish emptiness. And I picture the ghosts of hen harriers.
For still the loss goes on. This spring, five of the last hen harriers breeding in England mysteriously ‘disappeared’. We could update the death toll to forty-four million and five – but will that be enough?
On Saturday 8 August, Britain’s second national Hen Harrier Day will have united thousands to demonstrate peacefully that the criminal destruction of a raptor is unacceptable. That, yes, they have reached the critical point of “enough is enough”. That, for them, it’s time to say “no” and they simply won’t tolerate any more loss.
What will it take for you?
WHAT WILL IT TAKE? WHAT TRAGEDY WILL WAKE US ALL FROM OUR LETHARGY AND SHAKE US INTO ACTION?”
Chris joins Mark Avery and fellow supporters at Hen Harrier Day 2014.