Most days I try to spend a few hours in the local countryside, wherever I may be located at the time, exploring and absorbing the riches of the natural world. All life fascinates me, the individual species and the interconnected relationship that build a web of intricacy we are only just starting to understand.
These experiences I've cherished for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my parents spent time with my younger sister and I pointing out the plants and animals and teaching us to respect all life. Later on when I discovered the sciences and great teachers on TV like Carl Sagon, Sir David Attenborough and Sir Patrick Moore. I was inspired, filled with wonder and ambition to understand and see with my own eyes as much as possible while experiencing this brief moment, conscious and alive on this little speck of a green and blue planet.
Those early and profound influences have never left me. I wouldn't change my passion and connection to the natural world for all the worldly riches and toys that most desire. When I'm immersed in nature, whether in the jungles of Borneo or in a meadow in my native Worcestershire, my heart is full and I stride like the richest man on the planet, truly alive and connected. I wish all could experience the same emotions.
Which brings me around to the very point of this blog post.
I'm the bearer of bad news I'm afraid. Some will be surprised by my conclusions but I'm sure most of you won't be. The voices of alarm have been loud and clear for those paying attention.
For many years I've been talking about, some would say ranting about the disappearing bio-diversity and the falling population numbers of our native UK wildlife. This is well studied by the scientific community and they are all in agreement.
Of course, some species are doing better than others. For instance, the Common Buzzard and Red Kite have made a remarkable comeback across the country. As a boy, if I'd have seen either bird I'd have lost sleep through excitement for weeks. A change in some farming practices and focused conservation can take full credit for these success stories.
Red Kite - A UK conservation success story
But where there are winners you have to have losers and they vastly outnumber the victors. The once common species that I grew up with like the beautiful Yellowhammer that filled the countryside with its plaintive call is all but now gone. The flocks of acrobatic Lapwing that occupied our farmlands are conspicuous by their absence. Ratty the Water Vole that used to inhabit every stream and waterway has become a symbol of our loss. Declining Farmland Bird Species
The summer days of my youth where the hedgerows, woodlands and fields were alive with delicate but fiercely territorial butterflies shimmering in sunlight while bouncing off each other defending the best pieces of habitat are fast becoming faded memories. Even our wildlife-friendly garden that has been planted and designed deliberately to attract as many species as possible now, in contrast to long past years, is an empty refuge for the few remaining visitors.
Here's a list of the butterfly species that should be a common sight at the time of the year. How many have you seen? UK Butterfly species on the wing in June
The species I mentioned above, when now encountered, become part of my 'memorable day species' list.
How and why has this happened?
The answers to the above questions are many and complex. But some are obvious if we open our eyes.
Just this morning while walking just after dawn with a good friend and fellow naturalist in the rolling, lush countryside near my home. The countryside was all but silent. When the classically and rich English dawn chorus that you've been used to is missing, the silence rings in your ears. This is not new to me at all, unfortunately. This is a now common observation.
An insect desert where it should be an oasis
The farmland adjacent to the mixed woodland bordered by a 5-metre strip of grassy verges should have been alive with basking insects, charging up their metabolisms with the warmth of the morning sun. We saw nothing at all, not a single beetle, moth or butterfly. Again this is becoming a common occurrence. Even recent visits to my local, rich flower meadows which were a favourite butterfly patch have yielded very few insects or birds where once there were many.
The use of herbicides and pesticides has become more and more widespread. The dead and yellow grasses line fields, parks and roadsides, eventually turning to dust and blowing away. These are vital habitats for our invertebrates which in turn feed our small birds and mammals, they now lie withered and devoid of life.
Don't we use our sciences well? (note the sarcasm).
The glyphosate residue found in processed bread alone is terrifying, lucky us eh? After finding out this hidden scandal we make our own poison free bread. Unbelievably I know people who actually spray the vegetables that they are growing and then serve them to their families, all in the name of healthy eating!!!!
More to come on this subject at a later date.
Where do you think all these poisons go? It all seeps, washes into our water aquifers draining into our waterways and enters the food chain affecting all species and that includes us. We are literally soaking our lands in poisons and all for convenience and of course to maximise profits.
The farming community is under huge pressures to keep solvent while under attack from cheaper imports backed by monopolising trade deals. Sure the farmers are subsidised by our governments, but why are we importing grain, fruit and vegetables in the first place? We live in the garden that is our home.
Trade deals are undercutting our farmers and are being supported with backhanders from Big Agra and all the lovely GMO biotech industries. We are having the very land we live on and our food security compromised for profits. This is having a massive influence on how our countryside is being managed. The poor farmers have little choice than to use poisons to wipe out insects that attack the valued crops. The margins are so slim and hang in the balance every harvest that the risk outways the negative effects, at least in the short term. This trend is happening all over the agricultural world.
Our wildlife shut out by agriculture
A blatant plug here. For more in-depth info on what is happening with our food chain I highly recommend the three book series by my colleague Mark Plummer, you can find his work here or you can contact me for a FREE review copy of any titles in our book catalogue.
Another upward trend I've observed is the increased persecution of our wildlife. It seems to be coming down directly from our governments. They offered the people after a long fought campaign a fox hunting ban but rarely, if ever, enforce it. Recently a £50.00 bounty has been put on the head of every badger in the country (see recent articles here and here). The list of cruel and senseless persecution seems to be growing, they even want to cull our Raven!!
In the last 24hrs while walking the same route described earlier we came across four dead Pheasants, the feet of two separate Roe Deer plus lots of fur in the long grass. We also even found a dead Kestral, a protected species blasted out of the sky and like the other pointless victims left to rot where they fell. Just senseless killing for killing sake is a human trait I will never understand.
We saw more dead than alive animals during our walk and it just breaks my heart. The wholesale slaughter of the planet wild inhabitant seems to be running out of control. At this point in our history and if we make it into the future we will be defined by our bloodlusts and stupidity. But I have a feeling that mother nature will have her say long before we get to the distant future and hang our heads in shame.
As my favourite comedian, the late Bill Hicks defined us, "we are a virus with shoes".
The above testimony is only scratching the surface of the biological crisis we are now facing. The seas are full of microplastic and industrial chemical runoff. Our forests around the world are being ripped out of the ground, slashed and burnt, leaving the once majestic treasure houses resembling a post-nuclear wasteland. What for? For plantations producing mainly genetically modified monocultures that go mostly to feed livestock to supply our fast food outlets and western junk food lifestyles.
Ban Palm Oil PETITION UK
Ban Palm Oil PETITION UK
All short term and not sustainable while we tick off species after species that disappear into the infinite night of oblivion.
I firmly believe we have reached or are very close to a tipping point of bio-diversity collapse. Can we turn it around? Maybe, but we collectively need to act now. No more corrupt agenda driven arguments, meetings, roundtables and conferences and most of all denial and ignorance. We need action now and the corporations that have natures blood on their hands need to be held accountable.
But it doesn't stop there. We can make a difference and force the hand of change.
If you want to make a difference please educate yourselves as to where your money goes. If you're buying products that contain palm oil, GMOs etc find better, cleaner products, they are out there and becoming more available.
On a Saturday afternoon if you've been taking the easy option of using Roundup instead of working up a sweat to remove the weeds on the drive, ditch the poisons and get a little sweaty. Boycott these evil corporations that lie, deceive and poison us all. Take the money out of the system and the criminal companies will have to adapt and give us ethical and safe products or they will fail. The all-important stockholders will not let that happen I can assure you but we have to apply constant financial pressure for them to change. The same applies to your vote at elections. Ask the people who put themselves forward as our voice and representatives to be accountable. Check the voting records and demand disclosure of financial records before you place your votes.
Demand it, it's your human right.
These simple methods, flexing of our intellectual and personal sovereignty have true power, we've just seemed to have been distracted and forgotten that these people work for us.
Changes in our spending behaviour will help your personal health and the long-term health of your local environment, it's all in our hands and the choices we make. We all need to lead by example and don't settle for other faceless people deciding on our future. Start in your local area by collecting litter when you walk the dog or take the kids to the park. Nobody likes to see litter but how many actually take responsibility and clean it up? Don't wait for others to do this vital and dirty work.
Here's a great example of someone I know making a difference to our local area, day in day out she's out cleaning up OUR planet, unpaid and voluntarily because she wants change. We all owe people like this a huge debt. Be inspired and lead by example, put a carrier bag in your pocket and piece by piece we can start to clean up this mess of our own making. I never leave home without a litter bag.
Ignorance is no longer a valid excuse, we all have access to the internet or know someone who does. We can't stick our heads in the sand any longer and pretend this isn't happening on our watch. If we don't start to collectively act it will be at our own peril. We can make a difference and learn from our collective stupidity. It's all our fault we've found ourselves here. It's time to admit we're wrong, it's a good thing as it leads to undeniable truth.
For a lesson from history check our Rachel Carson famous book Silent Spring. First published in 1962 alerting the American public about the effects of pesticides and especially the now-banned DDT. Don't let history repeat itself.
Thank you for reading my impassioned rant
John Hodges (a concerned naturalist)
#WeWantWildlife #SaveOurSpecies #DemandCleanFood #BiodiversityFirst #ActNow #BeAWomble