November was the cruellest month…

November was a dismal month for nature in our country – just dismal.  This week the Westminster government issued figures showing that farmland birds were at an all time low but didn’t bother to comment on what they might do about it.  The Chancellor had a swipe at the environment and announced a review of the implementation of EU Directives in England with a clear view to watering down their already insufficient effect – and all in the name of growth.  The President of the NFU felt emboldened to show his Union’s true colours and say that government should shift its attention from biodiversity to production (and the new CLA President had to attempt to demonstrate his manhood on Farming Today by name-calling newts, bats and dormice).   Defra can’t get its act together to designate areas for wildlife in our seas and peregrines are illegally killed on grouse moors.  Dismal, dismal dismal.

There is a meanness and selfishness abroad which is distasteful.  Why ‘we’ lash out at nature I really don’t know.  But I do know it bodes ill for the non-voting, non-spending, not-heard wildlife around us.  Governments have not always been efficient in doing things to better the lot of our wildlife but, on the whole, governments have been well-meaning if slow and sometimes inept.  This government has shed, probably deliberately, any attempt to look well-meaning to wildlife.

Defra ministers are nice people (mostly) who have been left in a railway carriage parked in a siding while the train heads off to a destination called ‘callous disregard for nature’ driven by Driver Osborne and stoked by Pickles and Maude.  The quiet carriage is occupied by the Liberal Democrats and David Cameron who are just going along for the ride.  I don’t remember this journey being in the route-planner of the environment sections of either the Conservative Manifesto (which was actually quite good) nor the Liberal Manifesto (which wasn’t bad either).  I didn’t vote for this lot anyway, but even if I had, I wasn’t offered this in the brochure for the excursion.

November was the cruellest month for wildlife in England for many years.  Can’t you hear the cries? The Government offers us a wasteland of concrete and silence.

But are we down-hearted?  Yes, I am a bit – I can’t help it.  I don’t like feeling powerless when nature is calling out in pain.  But this blog is called Standing up for Nature and that’s what we should all do – if we care.  Come back on Monday to hear about one small way that I intend to fight back – and maybe you can help me.



16 Replies to “November was the cruellest month…”

  1. I was going to “Like” this on Facebook – but I really can’t – although you’re absolutely right, Mark. (They really should have an “I absolutely agree” button).
    – and you’re also absolutely right that we all need to stand up and give a voice to wildlife – who don’t have one of their own (or at least not one that this Government can understand!).
    I’m off to Step up for Nature ths morning, selling raffle tickets for RSPB – look forward to hearing your idea next week on how we can fight back.

  2. Yes you are right as usual Mark. I think what is so disappointing is, yet again, there is the growing spectre of broken political promises. However you look at it, and I am trying hard to be non political, the promise of being the “Greenest Government Ever” is looking in tatters right now. What surprises me somewhat, as you say, is that people like Mr Cameron, who made the promise, and the LIb Dems. seem to be locked in a vale of silence overall this. You would have thought they would have said something to moderate the attitudes of the three gentlemen you mention Mark. However I am reminded of two quotations, firstly “the only way evil can triumph over good is if the good do nothing” (it is perhaps not evil in this case but it is pretty bad for wildlife) and secondly a quotation from JFK when he was talking about the agressive stance of the Soviet Union, “civility is not a sign of weaknes”. So I quite agree Mark we must stand up to this “clique” in the government and they will see that the civility of the conservation moment is not, as they probably think, weakness on our part. It is often surprising what can be achieved when one stands up against “the bulldozers”

  3. I am like you on this Mark, I admit to feeling depressed and numb over the bashing nature has taken during November (and before). It seems, with the folk mentioned in today’s blog, we have taken so many steps backwards and the worst for me is I never imagined it or saw such an attack coming! Maybe this will stir our gentle community into some kind of constructive and collective campaign, maybe this has been coming for a long time and I hope we can all rise, support and gather to the flag of preservation and conservation of what little wildlife we have left. We owe it to our children and as much to ourselves!!

  4. What is really depressing is that trashing wildlife won’t make any difference economically except a negative difference as environmental services collapse.

    We only need to look at the pictures of herring boats in harbours on the east coast of Britain 100 years ago and look at fishing in the north sea now. That is a real demonstration of how not protecting wildlife (and yes fish are wildlife!) really trashes jobs and an economy.

    Most of the UK land surface has no real constraints on developmentwhich are imposed by the Habitats or Birds directives, but a few special places do. If our economy is not economic despite the vast area that are not protected, it seems unlikely that things will change by trashing the rest. All that will change is that we will have lost what remains of our natural heritage…and our economy will still be in trouble.

    I suppose it is human nature to blame someone of somebody else for your misfortunes. Politiians used to blame various “foreigners”, but now they blame nature. Blaming foreigners was a mistake because it didn’t address the real problem and often led to war. Likewise blaming nature is a distraction and will only lead to longer term impoverishment, financial and spiritual.

  5. All,

    I’m finalising a blog (Fall Out) in response to the Autumn Statement on my website ( which I will hopefully publish for Monday morning (watch out for it!). Having worked in the ecological consultancy sector for more than a decade and deal with the intricacies of the Habitat Regulations in the context of planning and development on a regular basis, I do think that there is a case for reviewing how they are applied, in certain circumstances where it relates to European Protected Species (not the habitat designations, i.e. Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protected Areas), which would have benefits to developers…absolutely…but also, in my opinion, benefits to nature conservation and practitioners. The blog is detailed as it makes reference to both European and domestic legislation and case-law, and whilst I have considered using the text in this response, I would hope that Mark would allow me to provide a link (as it is also illustrated) once the blog is published. Some of it may be controversial to some readers, but I hope it provides a little balance and cause for thought.

    Nevertheless, I would also like to reiterate Mark’s and other’s concerns that November has been a torrid month for biodiversity policy and the Government’s (or is it just an element of the Conservative Party?) seeming indifference to our living natural resources that we collectively share and enjoy is surprising and disappointing; especially given the National Ecosystem Assessment that was published in the summer. Has this been forgotten?

    I do wonder if there are other forces at play here. I’ve read and heard that the Conservative right are deeply unhappy with David Cameron and are perhaps angling to depose him next year to give his successor (and George Osborne has been mentioned) time before the next election in 2015 to settle in. Thus George’s recent belligerence towards the natural environment may be more to do with increasing his power base and extending his influence within the party than any meaningful desire to collectively bash biodiversity by the Government. This may partly explain why David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Defra ministers are quiet on this issue. If Cameron wants to retain the Prime Ministership to the election, then he won’t want to antagonise the most powerful minister in Government after him. This of course may be fanciful thinking.

    I also consider that the reference to the Habitat Regulations within the Autumn Statement and elements of the National Planning Policy Framework document have been poorly communicated and/ or contradictory, resulting in and unsurprisingly, vociferous comments speaking out against these proposals. Perhaps if the communications were thought out more, involved Defra ministers as well as other departments, the proposed changes and reviews would be seen to be more palatable and conservation NGOs and other environmental sectors would be more prepared to engage with them in a more positive way, but with a healthy dose of questioning?

    Thank you for allowing me to present my comments.


    1. Richard – thank you for this. Your thoughts and mine may not exactly coincide but they do overlap quite a lot – see my blog on Monday for what i think is going on in Osborne’s mind. Thank you again.

  6. Don’t think I have ever read a blog with so many political overtones,although November was not a good monthIcannot see anywhere that they have said they will trash wildlife and do you really think whoever was in government would have done better.Of course not the previous lot made it inevitable that we would pay for a decade at least for their mismanagement.
    There is absolutely nothing in the new ideas that makes it inevitable that wildlife and the environment will suffer that is all down to individual decisions that will reflect what the general public want.
    How ironic that conservationists will now realise how farmers have felt being pushed around by everyone
    Perhaps even the RSPB will wonder if they should have not been so happy with wind turbines as we are now all paying for them when they don’t work with no wind,paying for back up when reasonable wind and paying for them to shut down when too much wind.Still some debate whether they will slice migrating birds with these massive off shore wind farms.

    1. Dennis – I’m glad you noticed the politics! But, I would say something quite similar if anyone else were in power. What is happening is a deliberate attack on wildlife which is pretty unprecedented.

  7. Yes to be fair Mark I am sure you would and think you are right about the consequences but I don’t think it is a deliberate attack on wildlife that would be horrendous.My guess is you are right that wildlife will suffer however.I do personally feel it will be difficult to turn the economy around without wildlife getting damaged.Just for example everyone seems to want more roads,more railways,more airports and that means more car parks,the list goes on and on.No one wants them on good land,heaths,near towns,the future does not look good when no one seems to want to live in towns but predictions point to towns getting larger by 20%.One thing for sure I am with you in being a bit down hearted so will look forward to you feeling a bit brighter soon.

  8. There is a significant amount of press coverage here in France and other EU countries with regards Osborne’s statement and much unfavourable speculation with the route the UK coalition are taking. The attack on the EU habitats directive, clear intentions to redraft COE Human Rights at the very least and possibly dismantle, and an absolute ignorance of the ELC, (despite Richard Benyon’s confirmation to the contrary), has left many European based pundits believing that it is not wildlife, people or landscapes under attack, but anything that is ‘European’. Certainly recent and wrong blame apportioned to the Euro zone for soaring UK unemployment figures and the falsehood that economic woes were the fault of the Euro zone, when they can’t have been responsible given the timings involved, allow with a degree of accuracy, the European press to assume that both the UK population live in ignorance of the overall European set up as well as a UK government willing to blame Europe for any and everything it has failed to be able to control. Hardly a new situation and it is taking advantage of something that has been rumbling in the frankly fascist English press for far too long and thus will not upset the vast majority of the English population.
    This is acutely embarrassing when a) All European based discussion on natural and cultural heritage is in English, (even, as is increasingly so, when no British representation is present). b) Case studies used in consultation tend to focus in on new world situations which bear no relevance to the shared natural heritage, climate and history of the European continent. This is surely the result of ‘think tank’ wonder boys & girls who were not taught a second language and also failed to realise that all relevant European case study can be found readily translated into English if only they looked beyond the Wall Street Journal.
    As I found out during the Public Forest Estate disposal consultation, those in the UK hoping to fight against such idiotic and flawed thinking have allies in Europe. It is maybe time for us all with an interest in preserving the countryside, its inhabitants (both human and wild), as well as urban green space to liaise transboundary to help produce an even louder voice to protect a shared inheritance particularly as we are fast approaching CAP reform.

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