OUR PLACE: CAN WE SAVE BRITAIN’S WILDLIFE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE?
MARK COCKER , JONATHAN CAPE, £16.99
Mark Cocker’s personal journey through landscapes he knows well forms the backbone of this intensively researched examination of our treatment of the British countryside and its wildlife.
He begins on the highly protected North Norfolk coast to outline the birth of what he calls the “environment age” and the foundation of the three largest conservation NGOs: the National Trust, the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts. Despite a combined membership of millions for these and other conservation groups, our wildlife has declined remorselessly and the pace is gathering. He delivers some sledgehammer blows: 44 million birds were lost to our countryside, mainly between 1975 and 1987, while farmers and landowners received huge sums in agricultural subsidies from public taxes.
He writes about the draining of the Fens, the afforestation of the Flow Country in northern Scotland and the vast battle between industry and conservationists that drowned rare plants under a reservoir at Cow Green in Upper Teesdale.
The most powerful section of the book comprises his 10 ‘truths’ fundamental to our relationship with British nature. These should be required reading for anyone who cares for our natural history. Our countryside, he argues, has been stripped of much of its wildlife and yet we still support systems that amplify the losses. If we British, with our history of campaigning for our landscape and wildlife, can’t stop the decline, then who can? Brett Westwood, BBC naturalist