“The UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world with more than one in seven species facing extinction and more than half in decline, according to the State of Nature 2016 report.”
“Farming takes responsibility for the iconic British countryside,” – Guy Smith for the NFU. Yes Guy, and not in a good way.
It’s no surprise to me that the report lays most of the blame for this disturbing state of affairs squarely at the door of those who claim to be the true guardians of our countryside – the farmers.
Four decades of intensive farming has had an “overwhelmingly negative” effect on wildlife. So say the 50 different organisations contributing to the report, which include the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the National Trust, the Marine Conservation Society and the Natural History Museum.
The NFU is faced yet again with scientifically-researched, properly accredited expert evidence that spells out in capital letters the damaging results of farmers’ bad practice.
How do they respond? As they always do – with denial. They simply dismiss the report. Just like that.
Each time science slaps them with unwelcome news, the farmers typically respond with hands over ears and heads in the sand. But the trouble is, when the NFU says “Jump!” the Tory government says, “How high”.
And so our nature suffers. Wildlife suffers. We’ve seen it so many times before. Take bee-killing pesticides and the culling of badgers as just two devastating instances.
Urbanisation, wetland drainage and climate change have also played their part in bringing our nature to this sorry state, though to a far lesser degree.
“The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before” – David Attenborough
Some facts from the State of Nature report covering the years 1970 – 2013
- A massive 75% of the UK landmass is now under agricultural use
- Use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides has greatly increased, including the deadly neonics which are killing our bees
- Marginal habitats like ponds and hedgerows have been taken out
- There’s been a 20% decline in farmland species
- 54% decline in farmland birds
- 41% decline in farmland butterflies
- 56% decline in total UK species
- Of 8,000 species, 15% are critically endangered
The UK has lost significantly more nature than the world average. It’s dangerously close to the same nature-deplete level as Hong Kong.
Some of our most iconic animals are at risk of extinction –
- the kingfisher
- the water vole
- the curlew
- the hedgehog
- the turtle dove
- the willow tit
The much revered naturalist David Attenborough is still optimistic that all may not be lost:
“Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”
Country Landowner’s Association Tim Breitmayer calls for farmers and conservationists to work together:
“The report makes sobering reading and paints a clear picture of significant decline over 40 years. It reminds us how much there is to do to reintroduce habitats and species into our natural environment and protect them.”
Glyn Davies of WWF-UK too sees a possible way forward: “Nature can recover with the right incentives to help restore species, reduce habitat loss, prevent pollution and develop green energy and infrastructure,” he says.
But those fine fellows at the NFU, speaking through their vice president, still believe there needs to be “sustainable intensification of agriculture” – surely a contradiction in terms – to ensure “domestic and global food security”.
We who treasure our wildlife and nature in the UK have a fight on our hands. We must ensure that the NFU and their champions in the government can’t derail the 25-year Plan for Nature. The government made a manifesto commitment “to leave the natural environment for the next generation to enjoy in a better condition than it is in now.”
The Tories delayed publication of the plan after Brexit. It’s now due to be published this autumn. Looking to a future no longer under European environmental constraints, the government may well try to water down the plan’s provisions. But it’s not too late for us to put pressure on the government to keep its pledge.
Please send the Grow Green Report to your MP here
And please also send a quick email to your MP asking him/her to become a Species Champion by joining the Species Champion Project
All those above are for UK citizens only.
Here’s one for bees that everyone can sign
And for anyone who cares about the planet’s biodiversity, read this excellent piece from Care2 10 Reasons Why the Meat & Dairy Industry is Unsustainable
Find help here to Go Vegan
UK government must deliver on 25-year environmental pledge – The Guardian
UK one of “least natural countries in the world” – The Independent