Tuesday 31 May 2011

A turning point for conservation?

I take my hat off to Chris Packham. His taste in music may be suspect; his taste in dog breeds even worse. But... he has achieved the impossible. He has dared to challenge the high priests of conservation and produce a programme - broadcast on the BBC no less - that gets right to the heart of the problem.

Watch it here. Do it now, before it drops off iPlayer. Really - whatever you were planning to do tonight, drop it, and watch this instead. This is history being made. A turning point for conservation. We will look back at this programme and say "That's when the tide turned".

Of course, as a shooter, I'm delighted that he used the example of the grey partridge to illustrate a successful conservation project - particularly that he highlighted the excellent work of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Dick Potts. Good grief, he even managed to mention game shooting in a positive light.

But this programme goes much deeper than that. It's an honest look at the reasons behind the catastrophic decline in birds, mammals, insects and wild plants in the UK during my lifetime.

There's no finger pointing and name calling. Just honest interviews with farmers who say, simply, I can't afford to farm wildlife, I have to make a living.

And, crucially, Packham exposes the nonsense of flagship single-species conservation projects run by organisations like the RSPB. Projects that may be great for drumming up political support, funds and membership, but don't tackle the root of the problem.

As an aside, it's ironic to see the RSPB taking corn buntings from the nest, hand-rearing them and then releasing them elsewhere, bragging about the fabulous conservation benefits to this threatened species. When the very idea of doing the exact same thing with hen harriers makes their blood boil with fake rage at the shooting estates that would love to work with them on such a project.

Anyway, back to the point. I have enjoyed watching the pragmatic Packham bite his tongue when soppy Kate Humble makes some infantile comment about cute n fluffy wildlife. Last night's Springwatch was a case in point - a pair of buzzards (don't they just eat worms?) had rounded up a bevy of rabbits, voles, moorhen chicks and, yes, an ickle fluffy duckling, for their young. Humble seemed close to tears; Packham just shrugged as if to say 'What do you expect?'

Now Packham has established himself as one of TV's leading conservation experts, he has the clout to say what he believes. And God bless 'im, that's exactly what he's gone and done.

I do hope I'm right, and this marks the start of a new era in conservation thinking, where we focus on the real issues, and doing something about them, rather than leaving it to organisations like the RSPB to exploit the subject for their own political and financial gain.


Richard said...

James an excellent article as usual and now that I am in Australia I can't watch it on iPlayer which seems a shame.

Anonymous said...

intersting read as usual james