Plastic environmentalists

Garbage
Garbage

I attended many political party conferences in a former life and I got to grow to enjoy them.  Moving from the LibDems to Labour to Conservative conferences became part of the autumn scene.

There were individual members of every party with whom one could have sensible and constructive conversations about nature and the environment but rarely did the issues seem to be that important to the political parties.

Last week, several NGOS published a review of the environmental leadership of the three main English political parties. It is a damning indictment of how hopeless our politicians are on this issue (although its findings are a bit less outspoken than that!).  Do read it as it is short, pithy and deeply depressing.

My summary would be as follows:

  1. the Conservatives have demonstrated that they were only pretending that they cared about the environment –  they couldn’t care less?
  2. Labour have not demonstrated that they care about the environment, nor that they know what they would do – feckless?
  3. the Lib Dems do care and do know, but even in government they have failed to make much difference – hopeless?

It says so much that in a world of climate change, rainforest destruction and extinctions, that the government is going to slap a 5p tax on plastic bags;  some plastic bags; some plastic bags after the 2015 general election; perhaps.

In a democracy, we get the political leaders we deserve, but it’s difficult to believe that we really do deserve this plastic lot.

If you are a member of any political party then please press your party, whichever it is, to up their game before the next general election.

 

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48 Replies to “Plastic environmentalists”

  1. And UKIP will take us out of Europe which will lose us legislation that currently protects. Thinking pesticide banning which our own rubbish coalition wants to ignore.

    I would add Mark that whilst voters have hobson's choice when it comes to voting for some who get's why the environment and biosdiversity matters, I am equally frustrated how the mainstream NGOs just seem too unwilling to up their game politically. If you look at the scant activity on Blogs and Twitter for instance from their Chief Execs and board members, you would imagine for a moment that we're all living in a rose garden. Come on guys, don't you have the stomach for a fight? There's a political war being waged in the countryside and apart from a few journos, celebs and many active volunteers, I don't see much happening?

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    1. 1. “There’s a political war being waged in the countryside” - is there really – between whom?

      2. “and apart from a few journos, celebs ….” who's that then …?

      3. I don’t see much happening” - Robin – I agree with you – I don't see much happening at all !

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      1. Example - Dr Brian May has managed far more signing of ePetitions to try and be a voice for Nature than Mike Clarke has managed from a vast already-known membership for Nature's Voice!
        Rock on!

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        1. Of that there is no doubt – but there is a difference – vegetarian May wants to STOP something happening and Clarke presumably wants to START something happening (much more diffi-cult)

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          1. Like trying to STOP wholesale persecution of a protected BoP out of sporting interests you mean Trimbush? Not so difficult to muster a few signatures to try and introduce licensing of Grouse moors though - still waiting for my letter encouraging me to do so though.

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  2. That is spot on Robin. It is true that our NGO's do seem equally hopeless at influencing the Government's stance on anything environmental but what about all of us? Is apathy a problem as well?

    We all get the chance to vote so why not make it plain to our candidates what we expect with regards to the environment.There are apparently more members of RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts etc than any single political party so why do we not make a lot of noise come the General Election?

    Even the media do not take us seriously. When did you see a PROPER environmentalist on Question Time? There's your chance Mark.

    Back to the NGO's they really do have to put much more effort into being in the lead when lobbying for change. They need high profile spokesmen and women who the public become familiar with and identify with. We have to grab media time and credibilty. We must not appear to be a beard and sandal brigade (nothing wrong with beards or sandals). To achive this NOGO's need much more support particularly finacially but they must promise to do much more.

    I long for the day when I see a real discussion in the media with an environmental NGO really taking on a politician. Let's stop being the nice guys and start the fight back now.

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    1. That is a good point Derek. It was estimated that the RSPB alone had/has more members than any of the main parties. Reversing the point around though, you would think the politicians would spot that blue tits are more popular than they are without thinking about it any deeper. The NGOs do lobby all the main parties and that is what Mark means about his past life, there is no reason to think this has mysteriously stopped on the back of Making Homes For Nature. The RSPB indirectly eyes the National Trust with a certain amount of (justified) jealousy given their membership is three times higher and seems to be less vulnerable to financial trends. Unfortunately, if we apply the same lateral thinking to that point that I mentioned about politicians seeing a significance in the size of the RSPB membership, they probably theorise that the country is not that interested in conservation after all. More likely it is as Mark suggests that they listen and then pay lip service.

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  3. Shame the 5p tax for plastic bags was a Lib/Dem policy that the Conservatives didn't wish to introduce, hence the 2015 introduction, so that won't happen. To quote Ricky Gervais' mate Karl Pilkington "5 pence isn't a lot to kill a turtle, shouldn't it be more expensive to kill a turtle" and judging by twatter Jeremy Clarkson is going to stand against Ed Milliband, a real Linnet.
    As for the Green party you should live down here in Brighton, I voted for them hoping for change but their inability to negotiate with a wage dispute has left rubbish strewn all down the road, bins left uncollected it was a horrid mess, was that the green future I dreamt of, no it wasn't!
    And now I hear the rspb are putting up a turbine at their h.q. despite their protests over turbines in other locations, sure Beds is hardly a migration hotspot but what about exploding bats...cash corrupts.

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    1. Shirley. Wind turbines are harmful to a lot of wildlife when they are sited in the "wrong" places, and presumably these are the ones the rspb objects to. And, while the one they plan to install at Sandy and others which they don't object to may be responsible for the injuries and deaths of a few birds and bats, the rspb must weigh this up against the benefit in reduction in CO2 emissions. Climate change is going to affect all wildlife in the UK and over the rest of the world and so I feel that the rspb should consider this when they decide where to source their electricity supply. After all, unless the rspb can somehow manage without electricity they can not eliminate the harm due to the operation of their organisation. Whichever way their electricity supply is generated, be it gas, oil, nuclear etc. all have a detrimental effect on wildlife. Even if they were able to supply all their needs from coppiced wood from managing nature reserves, the act of coppicing would be beneficial to some species and harmful to certain other birds and creatures! Environmental issues are complex, and that is why, in my opinion the public are not all that interested in them. And the result is that nor are most of our politicians.

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    2. "cash corrupts."

      It certainly does, Shirley. While you are having to manage without more and more of your money to subsidise the idle wind turbines, their owners are raking it in, especially when they aren't going round and round. And still relying on gas, oil and nuclear to provide the leccy. So many snouts, such deep troughs, all funded by you.

      Meanwhile Mrs Hedegaard insists it is good for us. Another airing for the "no regrets" policy that we shall hear more and more of in the coming months. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/10313261/EU-policy-on-climate-change-is-right-even-if-science-was-wrong-says-commissioner.html

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    3. Shirley, to echo what Wendy has said - The Lodge has always been one of (if not THE) least green sites/aspects of the RSPB. Ideally, this could have been offset by solar panels a la Leighton Moss et al but the cost is prohibitive for such a large site and an equally large demand. This is because not one of the main parties has attempted to bring the cost of solar energy down and there is a simple reason to explain it. Very recently one of the prominent party personnel's marriage partner was alleged to have a stake in companies producing wind energy and this is because wind energy (forget the poor yield figures you have seen...they are plain wrong) can be distributed and sold back whereas solar energy benefits the individual user for the most part (there is some excess to be re-sold but this largely helps pay for the costs of installation for quite a few years).

      Despite the individual horror stories, wind turbines present no greater danger than high tension pylons and The Lodge had a huge crane on site for some time during the building work a few years ago. I am not aware of any casualties although try as we might to employ silhouettes on all the windows, they proved the biggest threat to birds fooled by light conditions or startled by a predator (casualties were less than 2-3 per year and 1-2 surviving the impact after recovering from being stunned). Indeed, you would be horrified by the window-collision numbers in big cities particularly species such as woodcock at this time of year.

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      1. Thanks for the responses everyone but your responses prove one thing, how tricky it must be for a politician to make the "right" decision one side provides high quality data saying one thing and the opposing side produce equally high quality evidence contradicting it,however let me start "turbines don't pose a threat" a study is/has been conducted in Scotland looking at the harm turbines do to bats that migrate or have colonies on the area, and so far it appears to have a negative effect, the turbulence imploding the bats, also look no further on here where a badly sited turbine farm had catastrophic effect on migrating birds in the USA,perhaps Mark can provide the link for the blog post on here after his recent trip to the USA. Also looking a bit further into things at the Sandy turbine the turbine itself shouldn't be a problem in isolation but look at the bigger picture just to the north in Mark's home county, many turbines have been installed and more under review/waiting for permission, in fact it holds the record for the highest number of turbines inland, well done Mark and those in Northants for being so forward thinking, so what you have now is one big block of turbines, not a problem if it isn't a migration hotspot but again looking more into it seems three wildlife trusts (cambs,northants,beds) are trying to create a corridor for migrating birds heading out to the east coast so some sort of migration must take place. And that many turbines will at some point cause a birds death or two.
        I'm actually not against turbines, I like them and would be happy to live near one but looking at images of the Sandy HQ would solar panels (regardless of cost) been the better choice especially since it seems more and more people are rallying against solar farms the same way they did to turbines, it to me seems a missed chance by the RSPB to send a strong message and as for the cost the turbine was done in partnership with a company Mark has also mentioned on here, so would the RSPB not have had a discount for either (preferably both).
        And finally Ian, yes I'm only to aware about bird strikes on windows, not only has my husband and I seen almost over 1,500 birds during our time as bird watchers, obviously not all in the UK, but I also work in a very tall building that has on average two stock dove/wood pigeon strikes on it's windows per week. Though I understand a certain company is experimenting with glass that has a reflective quality that only bird eyes pick up on, just wish they'd hurry up with it 🙂

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        1. Hi Shirley, I do not work for the RSPB any longer but I am a volunteer so I am not sure what the costing would be at The Lodge for installing solar panels but I suspect it would be prohibitive (even with discounts) and have little profitable return to show for a number of years. I suspect this also means that it would be a difficult concept to sell to concerned members that are often concerned at where and how their money is spent (rightly so). The power demands at The Lodge have been long of concern and I am afraid that it is a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' scenario for whatever option they chose.

          I heard of the glass scheme and I understand it involved large etched designs but I have not heard whether it worked or whether the exercise was to be widened. The examples I saw were unobtrusive and rather attractive so I hope it has not just lapsed into disuse. Any ideas Mark?

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          1. "....I suspect it would be prohibitive and have little profitable return to show for a number of years..."
            Ian, did you steal that line from the most recent cabinet meeting about substainable future/green energy?
            One thing I will say about solar panels at the lodge is, the building looks likely to be a Listed building, so probably not possible.
            As for the glass, I heard two streams on this 1)cost was.....oh! 🙁

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          2. Have you ever been to The Lodge Douglas? The old manor hall is quite a small part of the complex these days so it need not be touched and can remain for the beautiful photos that people take (even me) in summer.

            Why should I need to steal figures as you put it? Firstly, I think solar energy would be a significant step forward but see the point I made above about it being less suitable for exploitation as with wind energy. There is little incentive for the government to help it along when only individual installation companies and individual households or owners see a profit (eventually). Secondly, a lot of houses round where I live have solar panels so I have spoken to the owners and this confirms that the benefits are slow in coming simply due to the initial cost of installation. Even so, there is still an aesthetic objection despite the fact that one tends not see them at all when compared to wind turbines (I am not opposed to wind turbines BTW).

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  4. Like the landfill tax it will not solve any problems. It is just another tax on the people.
    The problem with what to do with rubbish will not be cured while the government of the day are raising tax from landfill. Whatever happened to recycling plants? Our waste should not be sent abroad to be recycled into shoes and handbags, we should do that in this country. Our local recycling plant was shut by the local authority, they stated it "did not pay." They lost another plot. It was not meant to raise money, it was there to recycle waste. The dustbin lorries unloaded their waste onto a conveyor and the paper, metal, glass etc. was separated and sent for recycling. Combustible material was made into fuel blocks and sold. This was more efficient than dumping into a mountain to become a problem later. We have progressed backwards. When will we have a government who display common sense? At the moment there is nothing to chose between the parties, so why would the public bother going to vote for any? The only time a political party pretend to take notice of the people is leading up to an election. Why don,t they do so all the time? It must be difficult for those "in charge" to understand the importance of OUR ENVIRONMENT. It affects us all. For a good quality of life we NEED a good quality of environment.

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  5. My summary would be as follows: Conservative, Labour, Lib-Dems are "three cheeks of the same arse". Attributed to George Galloway

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  6. Politicians generally do what they think will win votes, so tend to be a reflection of us. Sadly, when it comes to nature most people couldn't tell a bull's foot from a bee's knee and couldn't care less. Measures to reduce tax or boost house prices will always be much more popular with the electorate than measures to reduce pollution or protect wildlife (especially if these are perceived as threatening jobs or increasing gov spending). If we want our politicians to take more effective action on the environment we have to persuade the electorate to genuinely care about it rather more than at present. I wish I knew an easy way to do that, but as there doesn't seem to be one, those of us who do care need to make jolly sure the politicians know we care and just have to keep on badgering away at them and anyone else in a position influence policy on the environment.

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  7. How's this? Just a thought – before you all start!

    “We offer due diligence and strategic advisory services to clients active in the environmental field

    We help clients forecast business performance, develop plans to accelerate growth and strengthen existing positions.

    We serve clients, with a focus on market due diligence and strategic advisory services for mergers & acquisitions.

    We apply deeply rigorous, data-intensive analysis to develop new and unique insights that shape critical environmental decisions.”

    I suppose most folk have been turned off now!

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      1. Trimbush - when you have answered Diapensia would you be so kind as to translate this for me? Or project the likely cost of it, whatever it is, with levels of uncertainty, to 2050. It sounds expensive. Thanks

        "Prior research has demonstrated that actors belonging to one epistemic community often find it difficult to coordinate let alone understand knowledge from other communities, owing to processes of paradigmatic closure, inversion, and normalization. In this regard, boundary objects are said to facilitate coordination among epistemic communities without requiring explicit consensus. First,as with objects more generally, boundary objects entail interpretive flexibility."

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        1. Filbert Cobb
          Really Filbert – you are a teaser – but I am pleased to respond to your request:

          Your statement:-
          “Prior research has demonstrated that actors belonging to one epistemic community often find it difficult to coordinate let alone understand knowledge from other communities, owing to processes of paradigmatic closure, inversion, and normalization. In this regard, boundary objects are said to facilitate coordination among epistemic communities without requiring explicit consensus. First,as with objects more generally, boundary objects entail interpretive flexibility.”

          The above simple “cricket umpiring” statement was made by David Gower the Sky channel cricket commentator and ex-England left-hand batsman – he is of course referring to two competing cricket teams and the dilemma presented to the umpires when deliberating when a batsman is challenged by the fielding team which resorts to using the Hawk Eye 'action replay' technology – including, indeed, the use of the 'snickometer'; the decision options are – closure (out) inversion (Hawk Eye replay) normalization (not out)

          “Boundary objects” are of course “ropes” that enable both teams (and the independent Umpire) to uniquely determine the result of the movement of the ball towards (and possibly over) the boundary (with or without first bouncing – ie hitting the ground first) and thus enable the umpire to 'signal' the appropriate number of “runs” that should be added to the 'score'.

          Filbert – should you require further elucidation on the said quotation please seek further information available from hashtag-bumble eg the interpretation of a “no-ball” under the above conditions or indeed full explanation of the Duckworth-Lewis rules.

          There! I hope this helps!

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  8. I`ve voted in every local and General Election since I was 18, 27 years ago. No government or local council gives a freakin toss about the environment as far as I can see. What is the point of voting anymore ? Seriously, somebody please tell me !

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    1. If voting were to change anything, it would surely be abolished. You have to ask yourself who it is that your elected representative actually represents. Whoever he or she represents, it certainly isn't you!

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  9. Briefly - every sane person wants the same thing - individuals and organisations do what they do - no strategy - everyone wants to do it (?) in one leap - can't be done - the likes of RSPB - who should and could - are like Mr Galloway's quote - they are all in it for themselves and they ain't got a clue as to how to do it! They can't even get together and decide what they want - and even Mark's given up! Get the RSPB members to March on London - how many will attend?

    Cheers

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  10. ...says the man who recently flew and drove all over America.

    Perhaps we could stop complaining about everyone else and start making some real changes to our own lives and not expect politicians to do it for us. There's no progress to made waffling in cyberspace. Best just to do it.

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    1. Sigh! Mark knows my views on bashing air travel so he will be expecting what comes next. Air travel accounts for just about 3% of global emissions, surface transport (essentially cars etc) accounts for 9%. Therefore, immediate and total banning of all air travel would not even help achieve target dates for reduction of emissions set by most Western governments but hang on...there is another 91% not accounted for, where is that generated.

      Well, it is a combination of industry (and with apologies to some contributors on here) and agriculture although the precise ratios differ from country to country. This means you are correct in pointing out that it requires wholesale lifestyle changes but the difficult is in deciding how we can do it. How do we cut our demand on goods and food for instance? It is also worth noting that globally some Third World countries want the wealth that comes with having their slice of the pie and it is hard to think of a reason why they should not given we already have it. This means that we could cut our demands but it will be more than offset by rising demand created elsewhere (the various industries will inevitably look for the best markets rather than rolling down the shutters). I am not suggesting that we do not look to change our lifestyles but it is a parallel argument to that of wind energy insomuch as we cannot necessarily give up on something simply because it is not the ideal option.

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      1. "This means you are correct in pointing out that it requires wholesale lifestyle changes but the difficult is in deciding how we can do it. How do we cut our demand on goods and food for instance?"

        Well, by not buying so much "stuff" and by eating locally grown food. Or even start growing some of your own if you can. It's that simple. Stop using the car as much as possible, don't fly if you really don't have to, use less energy etc.

        You can't have the world as you want it by not making proper changes. Thinking that governments and NGOs will do it for you is crazy.

        The only things that have made my life more environmentally friendly are the choices I have made. Nothing done by a government or NGO has had anything like the same effect.

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        1. Steve, I never doubted that you knew what was required but what I meant was how would you personally carry that message to everyone? Admittedly, the NGOs do not have a particularly useful system of suggestions either but if only you or I make the adjustments it would be pointless. Even if everyone who was an RSPB member changed their lifestyle, it would not even create a ripple. Extend that to 60 million in the UK and you would at least get the ripple but with rising demand elsewhere in the world, the slack would quickly be taken up again. I am not saying Don't Do It but I can certainly see why a lot of people will argue that they are not going to do so.

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  11. I am not sure what is more laughable the green credentials of the main political parties or those of the NGOs.

    The NGOs went to sleep in 1997 and have been comatose ever since. Where were they when the SSSI PSA Target was “reached”? Does anyone really think that the condition of the SSSIs were as reported in 2010? Has anyone had a close look at the Biodiversity 2020 Targets? They look like complete political fantasy – do we really have to wait until 2020 before we admit this?

    Regardless of the Government in office, we need a wildlife lobby to have courage and integrity and we seem to be a million miles from that right now. Who can we rely upon? Natural England is leaderless and spends its time thinking up new ways of being nice to “customers”. Defra? They don’t seem to know much about anything and one assumes that the most able people spend their evening praying to be sent to a “proper” department.

    Part of the problem is that nature conservation has become too mainstream. People have careers now and are more concerned with saying the right thing so that they can advance up the organisational ladder. Anyone who does challenge the current indifference is accused of being “off message.”

    It is great that RSPB have made a complaint to Europe about the recent short-comings of the decision making of Natural England but can anyone tell me why an organisation that purports to be about protecting birds has not made a complaint to Europe over the state of raptors within classified SPAs? At least one raptor group has made a complaint. Surely, if a bunch of amateurs can get their act together then cannot the mighty RSPB?

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    1. Cosy

      How much funding (directly or indirectly) did the RSPB get from "government" over the last 5 years? Projects - grants etc ?

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      1. Trimbush, if this question is going where I think, please be careful - there is a whole branch of law building a head of steam over Internet conspiracy theories straying across the line into libel albeit mostly on unmoderated sites such as Facebook.

        Basically, the Charity Commission is there to stop the equivalence of 'cash for questions' (or cash for silence) impacting on the policy-making of NGOs and this is far more effective than Parliamentary Rules. It does not stop the government giving grants or a power firm giving a donation (as suggested on a FB page) but such a state of affairs does not 'buy' anything. Funding can only be directed at the project the funds are released for unless the project breaks down and the donor agrees to the money being moved to another project. It is rare but funding money can be returned if a project fails before the money has been spent. Donations (even corporate ones) can be directed as deemed by the charity unless again, they are for a specific project (this partly explains appeals such as Save The Albatross and Harapan Rainforest by the way because these cannot be funded through membership). Under Charity Commission rules all NGOs including Oxfam, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, Cancer Research are expected to be able to produce a breakdown of funding and spending if requested. Effectively, corporate donations are rarely given for anything other than a project where the donor can get either publicity or from A to B in its operations (returning quarries to a wild state after quarrying has finished is one example).

        You could legitimately ask 'would a contravention be easy to detect'? In fact, it would because this is where a charity's (NGO's) Mission Statement comes into play - anyone can challenge a charity's policy and it is not especially rare either. Simple unsupported accusations appearing on FB would quickly be dismissed but the Charity Commission can and does investigate any serious reported anomalies that have any substance. In the worst case scenario, a charity could lose its charitable status, which in many cases would quickly be followed by extinction. A good Google search will uncover a few examples.

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        1. You may be aware of the very recent (days) 'leaked' internal RSPCA memo warning the upper echelons within the RSPCA that Gavin Grant's political 'motivation' is risking the very existence of the animal rights charity

          “On 14th September 2013 The Daily Telegraph reported "RSPCA deputy leader warns 'too political' campaigns threaten charity's future: One of the RSPCA’s most senior figures has warned that the charity faces serious doubts over its existence as a result of the controversy generated by recent political campaigns”

          This memo was reviewed by James Barrington on the Countryside Alliance website – it was displayed in full - it has now been removed – no doubt following communications between the two bodies. Watch this space.

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          1. Trimbush, I am not at all surprised that the RSPCA has run up against trouble but it has much less relevance to this blog and discussion than may be readily apparent. The RSPCA has as its main remit animal welfare and prevention of cruelty to animals, whilst there is nothing per se to say that this cannot be a political issue by extension, it creates problems in the way the organisation is run. By contrast conservation, environmental and dare I say, humanitarian charities are political by their very existence political in nature. Nevertheless, any charity can be inadvertently turned into a politically-aligned organisation simply by having a position that clashes with the policies of an incoming party. Unfortunately, this has happened to the RSPCA to a very large extent and this is adequately exemplified by the article by none other than Clarissa Dickson Wright in the Mail over the w/e. I am not suggesting for one moment that Clarissa is promoting cruelty to animals but she is voicing an opinion in support of hunting that runs counter to the RSPCA's remit. Without going into the minutiae of the debate here, it is natural that the Mail (newspapers are most definitely politically-aligned) is more likely to print an article by Clarissa than it would an article by Chris Packham. OK, this fits nicely in with the comments I have made about NGO messages (see other posts on this blog) not always being picked up but the RSPCA has fairly unique position when compared to the RSPB, Greenpeace or Save The Children because all these operate in areas that are strongly political in the first place (political, not politically-aligned these are NOT interchangeable terms).

            Test line: please ignore this, I am trying to figure out the HTML tags.

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      2. I don't think there is a conspiracy, I think it is a combination of laziness and lack of interest. All the NGOs received public money in one form of other, and some are very good at fulfilling the criteria for releasing money. I have no problem with this, better than giving it to a bunch of landowners who seem to be taking the piss (see the peice posted by Mark above). What I object to, is the NGOs remaining silent when there are clearly things that are wrong. Interestingly (to me at least!), I heard that during the putting together of the recent report in declines of biodiversity by a whole bunch of NGOs, some people were suprised to find that some NGOs appear to avoid using evidence in their decision making. If this is indeed true, it just provides further ammuntion for those who believe the environment lobby are just a bunch of lentil soup slurping tree-huggers. It may also go some way to explaining the deafening silence from this sector.

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        1. Jack, I think it depends on how we define 'silence' in the context you have used it here. One thing I learned when I worked for the RSPB was that it was not unusual that a given subject genuinely had its own policy position despite the fact that someone was asking a question about the society's position. To explain what I mean and without wishing to cause offence - a person had their curiousity aroused (possibly by a magazine article) and decided to look at what the RSPB's response was. The RSPB's website is very good but it is big and some people will, having failed to find the information, hit one of the ' Contact Us' options. In theory, putting in RSPB + the subject into Google should cut the need for a site search but often it does not work. This is a roundabout way of saying that far from ignoring or glossing over a given subject, NGOs often have a very definite position but it is at the whim of the news media.

          The next part in the story is the Press Release and I have to confess that it was mostly so closely controlled (no bad thing) at the RSPB that I got little idea of how this worked. I know that the RSPB generated a lot of Press Releases but I never really understood why until I was volunteering at Lancashire Wildlife Trust. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to put out a Press Release about the state of house sparrows in Bolton, which was taken up and published. However, things start to become complicated at this stage and the first part is that not all (in fact, very few) releases will ever be published or given so little column space that they are easy to ignore. Sadly, the releases are sometimes hijacked by a reporter and published as their own work (this happened with my release but we used an error not made by me but by the reporter to our advantage) and this can seem as though the journal, newspaper, magazine or website is making the comment not the NGO. Again, this is a roundabout way of saying that far from skipping over small details, ignoring certain evidence or downright avoiding the subject, NGOs often have a complete policy position in place.

          A good example has been the BBC news coverage of the dreadful sarin attack in Syria. The BBC has chosen the bits that are most newsworthy and they never reported certain elements of the story that other news agencies picked up. Obviously, I am not on the scene so I have no idea what is true but I am mentioning this just to show that news agencies report only what they see as fit, which means NGOs are very much at the whim of news agencies. In other words, do not necessarily be fooled into thinking the NGOs are silent, they probably are not but they are equally frustrated that their message is not being heard as you are in not being able to find it.

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          1. Ian,

            Thanks, an interesting and considered comment. The use of media to communicate messages is always a double edged sword in my experience. My beef with the NGOs is that they are suppose to be full of informed people who should be able to see past the gloss of newsworthy stories. Either they are no longer informed or they choose not to look. Perhaps to illustrate this. The NGO report that I mentioned above had something like 60% of the species/habitats monitored in decline. In 2010, the SSSI PSA Target of 95% of SSSIs in favourable or recovering condition was exceeded - how does this really tally with the report on declines in biodiversity? Everyone is going on about there being no hen harriers breeding in England but they last bred on the North Pennines SPA in 2007? How can these sites be in favourable or recovering condition? Why is nobody asking these questions? I would not expect the general public to be able to drill down and look at this stuff but surely the NGOs should?

            I think we should be asking Mark to become the voice of the environmental movement. Anyone want to get an e-petition going?

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          2. I agree completely Jack, but perhaps the point I was making was a little lost in the explanation. Certain comments on an FB group about the RSPB and wind farms were made within the last few days that underlined this idea about false impressions. One contributor (an RSPB member) chose to broadly opine the mighty point that the RSPB supports wind farms. In fact the society position is very complicated and like most conservation issues the RSPB remains open-minded about the subject and does not offer silver bullets but there is afull position statement that is very easy to find on the website. A second post then essentially accused the RSPB of taking silence money from power companies. Like most conspiracy theories, the arguments are often compelling but they can be dismissed with a bit of searching. the contributor may even have been trying to be a bit mischievous but it really is amazing how little is known about Charity Commission rules and again, the information is there on the website albeit that a site search is slightly more complex for this kind of thing.

            OK, what if you cannot find a response on the website and the report you have just read does not mention the RSPB? Well, just ask! Not all NGOs provide a specific enquiries service but the RSPB does and it is very good. Even if an individual team member does not know the answer to your question, they can certainly find someone who can. In the case of your example, I am certain there would be someone within the RSPB who would be extremely delighted to give you an answer (we all like talking about our favourite subjects 😉 ). I admit, that the real difficulty (especially for NGOs other than the RSPB) is in knowing where to direct your question - without naming names, in a time of brilliant e-communications far too many people think that the best way of answering an awkward query is by ignoring it.

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  12. Dont forget the dear old Scottish Nationalists...they seem to hate conservation, they believe the environment is only for exploitation.

    Have a look tomorrow, there is a question in parliament tomorrow about the opencast coal debacle and the destruction of the Muirkirk Uplands SPA.....just watch the shoulders shrug.

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  13. I think that moe empasis should be on observation and understanding of wildlife rather than the all too trendy cost-benefit, natural Services. If labour, the conservatives or the lib dema go out and say a couple of cherry picked and out of context remarks on climate change or 'renewable' energy then who's really going to rather have them talking about that then about real experiences of nature albeit maybe ones on estates. I enjoy authors such as B.B ( one of our best nature writers) Ted Hughes etc. and even though these can sometimes be sentimental and have other flaws I would rather read that than the dry talk about the economic value of nature.

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  14. Ian I think you missed the point of my sarcasm in my response and wasn't accusing you of "stealing" figures it was more about the line that is in my quoation marks.
    Your statement seems at odds when mentioning costs about solar panels after all the NGO you worked for and "green" campaigners are urging people, governments and companies to use/find alternative energy sources rather then coal powered/fracking or nuclear. Yet the reason you stated for not using solar panels at Sandy was COST. There are many in government and opposition out in the field to taxpayers funding such products due to costs-see now where my sarcasm was coming from.
    Yes I have been to the Lodge to see Lesser Redpolls and Crossbills (see Shirley migration does happen in this region) however why should solar panels have to be profitable just to be installed at the Lodge? Could they along with the turbine be used by the RSPB as an education tool to both young and old and "explode" some of the myths about both bits of technology? If you could convert more people to the idea of renewable technology, well that's priceless isn't it? And worth the cost, profit or no profit, after all they can spend a small fortune on an advert that may or may not get them more members, that to me is a bigger and more expensive gamble the cost of solar panels would ever be.
    In this region (east) there are currently 4 proposed sites for solar panel farms, not panels stuck up on small roofs, all four are currently facing severe opposition EVEN the NFU are opposing the one outside Peterborough, and even though Mark wrote about the NFU on todays blog, not one mention of it? One of the most common perception of solar panels is that they don't work, even again Mark on here has mentioned how his don't work.
    Finally in my (boring) job as truck driver I see thousands of missed chances to use renewable energy sources, sure some are startig to install the odd turbine to generate their leccy but I look up and see those massive roof tops of the warehouses and can't help thinking how many solar panels can be put up there or even a "green" roof. I personally believe NGO's such as Greenpeace/FOE/RSPB etc should be campaigning at local level demanding that any new built houses/factories should have some sort of renewable energy installed as part of the planning process, this in turn I believe would reduce the cost of such installations...perhaps. But we don't get such campaigns, in fact there is deafening silence.

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    1. Oh please Douglas 😉 ! You are twisting my words somewhat (but I forgive you). I never stated but SUGGESTED that the reason solar power was not chosen was on the grounds of cost. You also slightly missed my point about profitability. The cost of installation of solar cells is high enough so that no significant inroads would be made on the power demand for as much as seven years. It is not easy to understand or explain this point but The Lodge is a demanding complex of buildings and ideally it would be better satisfying the demand from the outset (even partially) rather than waiting before the installation fees are paid off. Having said that, it will be much the same for a wind turbine but certainly not in the order of seven years. The basic importance of all this is not so much to the RSPB itself who will certainly have weighed up all the options but to present the idea to the membership. Leighton Moss (and possibly others that I do not know about) has run a solar unit for some years so the society will have the data it needs to decide on the best option. The point I have made elsewhere on this blog is that the government is putting more weight behind wind power than it is to solar although I did notice an item about tide power on BBC News. Unfortunately, tidal energy also involves the use of turbines and these may well be a much more dire navigation hazard to marine animals and environments than atmospheric turbines. There are other systems for harnessing water energy but they have suffered the same lack of funding that has hampered development of solar. energy.

      Having explained that side of things, I like the idea of comparing one form of sustainable energy against another and now you have raised it, I cannot believe no one else has thought of it (RSPB...over to you!).

      Delighted to read that you have visited The Lodge - it is a beautiful place in its own right is it not? I miss the quiet weekend walks around the reserve (when I was not working voluntary hours) and occasionally showing friends around.

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