Wildlife: A plea from the heart, by Nick Ach­e­son

A plea from the heart, by Nor­folk Wildlife Trust evan­ge­list Nick Ach­e­son

Norfolk - - INSIDE -

Mag­a­zines take a long time to edit and de­sign, so, as I sit to write this, it is Au­gust. Al­ways a tired and messy month, this year, after the blis­ter­ing bru­tal­ity of June and July, Au­gust is on its knees. My view out­side is of scorched grass, of wilt and of wear.

In gen­eral, when writ­ing this col­umn, I cast my mind for­ward a cou­ple of months and, draw­ing on a life­long love of Nor­folk’s wildlife, I have a feel for what will be hap­pen­ing in the county: what will be in flower, which birds will be in song, which will be on the move along the coast.

This year I’m strug­gling to know what to write. While I may, I ad­mit, be stray­ing into hy­per­bole, after two al­most wholly dry months in much of the UK, after pun­ish­ing heat­waves in south­ern Europe, ac­com­pa­nied by dev­as­tat­ing fires, it feels to me as if this has been the sum­mer in which we have met the re­al­ity of cli­mate change; as if the old ways are over and any­thing is pos­si­ble now.

We all know the hard facts. For decades the car­bon diox­ide re­leased from fos­sil fu­els by our man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries, our trans­port, our house­hold en­ergy use and many other as­pects of our lives has been trap­ping heat from the sun, just as the glass does in a green­house, and al­ter­ing our cli­mate.

More re­cently sci­en­tists have clearly shown that meth­ane and car­bon diox­ide re­leased by our live­stock in­dus­try — for which the hu­man world has an ev­er­grow­ing de­mand — have played at least an equal role in cli­mate change.

Cli­mate change will have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on hu­man en­deav­ours, not least the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try on which we in East Anglia are so de­pen­dent. But it will also have a dra­matic ef­fect on our wildlife

and this too will af­fect us greatly. Science has re­cently taken strides in un­der­stand­ing the value of bio­di­ver­sity.

By this I do not mean fi­nan­cial value, which be­lit­tles bio­di­ver­sity and places it in the growth-led, eco­nomic par­a­digm which has led us into this ter­ri­ble mess. I mean the in­trin­sic value of bio­di­ver­sity in the pro­cesses which — quite lit­er­ally — keep us alive. Many re­cent stud­ies, across the world, have shown that the bet­ter bio­di­ver­sity is pre­served — the more species ex­ist in an ecosys­tem and in­ter­act with one an­other in it — the more ro­bustly that ecosys­tem pro­vides the very things on which hu­man life de­pends: wa­ter, oxy­gen, healthy soils, pro­tec­tion from flood­ing and much more.

Wild species, di­verse and abun­dant, di­rectly equate to bet­ter health and well­be­ing for hu­man­ity.

There has never in hu­man his­tory been a more ur­gent need to rally be­hind ini­tia­tives to pre­serve the al­ready rav­aged in­tegrity of our ecosys­tems, giv­ing ev­ery species a place in which to live and to in­ter­act with oth­ers, with the soil and the land­scape, thus pro­vid­ing the life sup­port with­out which we hu­mans can­not sur­vive. At Nor­folk Wildlife Trust we have long since aban­doned the idea of con­ser­va­tion on na­ture re­serves alone. Sharply aware of the threats of cli­mate change, of

‘Cli­mate change will have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on hu­man en­deav­ours, but it will also have a dra­matic ef­fect on our wildlife and this too will af­fect us greatly’

de­vel­op­ment and of con­tin­ued habi­tat loss, we have been work­ing for a num­ber of years to­wards a vi­sion for wildlife con­ser­va­tion (shared with all our Wildlife Trusts part­ners in the UK) called A Liv­ing Land­scape.

This vi­sion views the whole UK land­scape as habi­tat to be re­stored for hu­mans and for wildlife, en­abling all of us to adapt to cli­mate change and other fu­ture threats. If dur­ing this sear­ing sum­mer you have even once dived into the shade of trees in the street or dab­bled your toes in a stream, you in­nately un­der­stand the need for A Liv­ing Land­scape. The wild and all its crea­tures are our home, our refuge from the beat­ing sun, source of our all soils, oxy­gen, fresh wa­ter and food. With­out them there is no hu­man life.

At Nor­folk Wildlife Trust we can­not make this crit­i­cal jour­ney to­wards A Liv­ing Land­scape alone. By its very na­ture this vi­sion re­quires ev­ery stake­holder in the land­scape to stand up and clam­our for a healthy home for wildlife and for peo­ple; to de­mand that the rigours of cli­mate change be met by ro­bust net­works of habi­tat for wildlife across the land, in which species can adapt and es­sen­tial eco­log­i­cal pro­cesses be main­tained. As never be­fore, in ev­ery way, we need your sup­port.

So, as I sit writ­ing in parched Au­gust, pro­ject­ing my thoughts for­ward to Oc­to­ber, I re­flect on the many Nor­folk Oc­to­bers I have known and I hope, for all our sakes, that this year’s will be the same. I hope for a mild, damp start to the month, rich in berries and in­sects for mi­grant birds, and with lush grass for re­turn­ing geese.

I hope for wind and heavy rain to ar­rive mid-month and for sor­row­ful mist to lie on the land in the morn­ings. I hope for fal­low deer to cough with lust in the gold-leaved woods and for fun­gal fruit­ing bod­ies to spring from the moist earth be­neath their feet. I hope tawny owls will shriek and bicker in the night, claim­ing ter­ri­tory for next spring’s breed­ing. In the wake of the Beast from the East and this un­re­lent­ing sum­mer, I hope — more than ever be­fore — for th­ese things to come true in Oc­to­ber, as they al­ways have in my life un­til now.

But above all I hope that the peo­ple of Nor­folk will lend re­newed sup­port to the or­gan­i­sa­tions, Nor­folk Wildlife Trust among them, which are gath­er­ing forces for a fight as has never been seen be­fore: for our wildlife, for A Liv­ing Land­scape and for the wild we all call home, in the face of cli­mate change.

Read more about Nor­folk Wildlife Trust’s ini­tia­tive for a Liv­ing Land­scape on their web­site: www. nor­folk­wildlifetr­ust.org.uk/ land­scape

ABOVE: Wet­lands at sun­rise

BELOW:New Buck­en­ham Com­mon

RIGHT:Nick Ach­e­son

Pink footed geese

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