Challenge Accepted – my Vision for Nature blog

This post originally appeared on A Focus On Nature‘s blog as part of their #VisionforNature series in the run-up (and just after) the general election 2015. Amongst the questions asked to prompt thoughts were: What do you want the natural world to look like 2050, and how do we get there? What is special about the relationship between young people and nature? 

I was incredibly honoured to be asked to co-ordinate this series of blog posts, and associated social media promotion, and it was greatly inspiring to receive so many fantastic pieces of writing from a variety of AFON members. I had originally thought I would write about engaging people with wildlife for my topic – after all, that’s what I do with my blog and my paid work. However with the Tory win for the election, I took inspiration from others (such as Georgia Locock and Matt Shardlaw) to look at their manifesto and what their win would be for wildlife and their environment. 

                                                                                                                   

So the votes are in, and the Tories are here to stay for another round. Whatever your views on this, at least we can all take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief that all that election bumph is over … until next time.

Right then, back to business. I will start with laying something out clearly – I am not going to analyse these political results too deeply. After all, they say to write about what you know, and I am very much a beginner when it comes to understanding politics. However, I will try to get my head around what this means for wildlife and our environment. I do hope it won’t be too depressing to read.

To begin, I shall refer to Georgia Locock’s excellent post on her own blog where she analyses the different manifestos offered up by each main political party – and let us look specifically at what she found for the Conservatives. Here’s a link to their full manifesto.

From Georgia Locock's blog

There are some positive actions in that list, I’ll give them that. I am thrilled that they are supportingcharging 5p for plastic bags. In Wales, this has been in place for a number of years already and is proving to be very effective (note: that link doesn’t provide very recent data). Of course, I would like to see further actions taken – ultimately a ban on plastic bags, but that is a long-term goal and the 5p charge is a realistic and feasible step in reducing plastic usage / waste.

I am encouraged by their aim to tackle international wildlife trade. I’ve been to South Africa and watched in awe as elephants and rhinos have wandered past on their daily business, these animals are magnificent and wondrous – but they are dying in their thousands. I hope that the Tories also plan to focus on the less well-known animals being trafficked – lorises, pangolins, birds and more. These species also need our help.

I’m intrigued by their Blue Belt plan. However, considering that the last government failed to fully implement the Marine Conservation Zones, designating only 27 when many more were actually recommended – I don’t hold out high hopes for our marine areas and associated wildlife to receive the true protection that they need.

Ok, I’ve had enough of being positive … time to look at those actions which make me wince. Although wince is a mild word – more like they make me want to shout at people and hit cushions in anger!

Opportunity to repel the Hunting Act?! What on earth are they thinking? Do they have no compassion for our wild animals? Don’t get me wrong, I do support some hunting – i.e. when it is (a) needed in order to feed people and (b) done sensibly with minimal distress to the animal. However, I don’t believe it is that hunting foxes, chasing hares, or using dogs is acceptable.  To me, it is just cruel and morally wrong.

Then there is going ahead with HS2. There are a variety of reasons why I don’t agree with HS2 – the demolishing of listed buildings, damage to the chalk aquifier system (and thus affecting water supplies in North London, which is where I’m from!) and so on. The main reason I don’t agree is that the HS2 proposal threatens 83 ancient woods (according to the Woodland Trust) – cutting straight through the heart of some woodlands. I am a big fan of ancient woodland, these habitats are rare and wonderful, full of spectacular species. There is no point in discussing biodiversity offsetting here, one’t can replace ancient woodland by planting new trees – the clue is in the name! Ancient woodland is ancient! Also, by supporting the HS2, they are surely contradicting their pledge to keep forests in the trust of the nation?

Now onto that topic which is well and truly controversial – culling badgers to control bTb. As Georgia Locock has pointed out:

In the UK badgers are one of the most protected species under The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 however they are the most persecuted.

I’m sure that we are all in agreement that something does need to be done to tackle the issue that is bovine Tb and it’s terrible effects on both the cattle and farmers. The scientific evidence suggests that culling badgers is not the best way – in fact, it could lead to worsening the problem. Why do the Tories support this action which will actually result in a worse outcome? It just isn’t logical, and whilst we waste time and money on it, numerous badgers are suffering as a result, often inhumanely. We need to use common sense and our morals here, listen to the evidence and act accordingly. In my own opinion, formed from what I have read, I believe that increase biosecurity measures and vaccination programs are the way forward.

I would quite like to write a bit about the Conservatives views on hen harriers here … but aside fromprotecting shooting, hunting and fishing as previously mentioned, I am not sure what they are.

I know I haven’t covered everything – unfortunately there is just so much to worry about! Declining pollinators, climate change (and all that relates to it), nature deficit disorder, pollution of water sources and more. To write about all of them would take an awful long time, more than the hours I have available today.

Let us be honest. Overall, it is all rather depressing. As an eternal optimist, that is quite a hard thing for me to say. There are hints of good things occurring, but it’s just not enough. We need to mobilise ourselves and make sure that our wildlife, our environment and our natural world as a whole are protected. And by “we”, I don’t mean just the A Focus On Nature network. I don’t even mean just conservationists and naturalists. By “we”, I mean everyone. We all need to get involved. It’s a big ask I know, and likely not realistic, but I like to dream big and optimistically.

How do we go about doing this though? How do we go about getting our voices heard? I am afraid I don’t have the answers – I’m still learning about politics and campaigning, it is going to be something I discover in the next couple of years, you can be guaranteed that I will try my best to get my voice heard (if you’ve met me in person, you know that I am not exactly quiet/unopinionated!).

We need to let the politicians know that they, and society as a whole, will suffer if they make bad decisions. Our Vision for Nature blog series is just the beginning. The Vision for Nature report is coming together, the material from the focus groups, surveys and more is being collated and analysed as I type! Of course, we will be sending it the government and making sure that they know we are determined to protect what belongs to us all.

It is going to be a challenge and a half, but I accept that challenge, do you?

Some posts concerning the election that are worth a read:

Some tweets from fellow young conservationists that have been inspiring me today:

Megan Shersby is an aspiring naturalist and science [particularly nature] communicator. She is currently based in Dorset, working as a Seasonal Assistant for Dorset Wildlife Trust at two of their centres. She is passionate about inspiring others to explore the natural world, and can usually be found in nature reserve examining the local wildlife. If that fails, look for the nearest moth trap, as she’ll probably be peering into its depths for the latest catch. You can follow her on Twitter at: @MeganShersby, or via her blog at: mshersby.wordpress.com

I just did a cool thing

Hm, it seems that the general election has inspired me to write! As well as writing my Vision for Nature blog post, I’ve finally got round to writing an e-mail to Red Magazine concerning some thoughts of mine on their recent issues. I know that there are more articles on the website (I particularly like this one about Political Women To Watch in 2015), but in the e-mail, I am just writing about their magazine.

It’s not a perfect e-mail and, having sent it, I can see where I could’ve expanded my views or written more clearly. But the point is, I’ve done it.

I always say I’m going to write a letter/e-mail about my thoughts (be it customer service, pot holes, etc), but aside from TripAdvisor reviews, this is the first time I’ve actually done it! Concerning one of my favourite topics – conservation! And what with the election just now, the minimal mention of politics in their magazines!

I wonder if they will respond? I’ll keep you updated of course!

Good afternoon,
First and foremost, I would like to congratulate you on your Anti-Apathy feature in May’s Issue. As a young woman in my mid-twenties who is keen to help make the world a better place, it was inspiring to read about such fantastic role models.

However, I felt a bit let down – where was nature? You may argue that Thomasina Miers “The Pig Idea” represented this aspect of activism, but I would have preferred an additional piece on conservationists, there are plenty of female role models out there who are all making a difference:

  • Lucy McRobert – Co-Founder and Creative Director of A Focus On Nature
  • Miranda Krestovnikoff – President of RSPB
  • Stephanie Hilborne – Chief Exec of the Wildlife Trusts
  • Brigit Strawbridge
  • Kate Humble
  • Michaela Strachan
  • Rosie Woodroffe
  • and many more!

Nature and environment are intricately linked to humans – mental wellbeing, economic growth, and so on. I feel that conservation should feature more in Red overall if I’m honest. For one thing, many readers will have children, and our most recent generations have been suffering from nature deficit disorder.

Onto a separate issue, I was very disappointed by the minimal amount of politics in your recent issues. We’ve just had a general election! Whilst I’m not saying your whole magazine should have been devoted to politics – there should’ve been more discussions on each parties views on the matters close to your readers hearts – housing, maternity leave/rights, etc etc. I look to Red as a magazine with interesting articles, but recently I feel it has been lacking and I hope that you up your game.

I could write more about the lack of technology featured, the language used to describe women (the descriptions about Christina Hendricks’ body when it wasn’t being discussed by her!), my personal view on the excessive amount of advertising (mostly on brands and objects – when you’ve recently featured an article on not spending money on objects!), but I feel that they are for another time.

Yours sincerely,
Ms Megan Shersby

Note – Red Magazine do have an online article on the Conservatives Manifesto (though no mention in the article about the environment, hmph!). I hope that something similar (with nature/environment included) appears in their next issue!!