Bins are central to the way a birder views the world – literally and metaphorically. I remember the thrill when I first acquired my pair of ‘Dialyts’ (on joining RSPB staff). But the symbolism of binoculars risks becoming a deterrent to those who think enjoying birds and other wildlife is the exclusive pursuit of a club to which they do not belong. I have a sneaking suspicion that, through convergent evolution, I have a growing resemblance to the birder stereotype – of a bearded (well nearly!), middle-aged men peering out of a wooden box through a pair of binoculars! Birds and nature are in too much trouble for us to alienate support from people who care – we have to evolve how we communicate our conservation message.
Binoculars have also evolved. Nowadays, there are a wide range of high performance products (including, I am proud to say, RSPB’s own label range). Bins now also provide a window onto a wider range of wildlife, from close focus on a tricky butterfly or fast-moving dragonfly, to high light gathering for bats and other nocturnal mammals.
And, birds and birders will always be central to the cause, as we broaden the nature conservation movement and become even more inclusive. We are finding new ways of making clear the wider benefits of our conservation work and its relevance to people where they are. This is at the heart of our Giving Nature a Home strategy.
Of course our work has always benefited all taxa – directly and indirectly – including species you don’t need binoculars to identify – indeed a microscope might be more appropriate for some of them. And our Saving Nature strategy to 2020 is very much a collaborative effort.
We reached a very important moment in the history of environmental conservation this year with the publication of the vital report State of Nature. It has brought together the expertise of a new and unique partnership, comprising 25 UK research and conservation organisations. Together, we hold an immense breadth and depth of knowledge, combined for the first time in a document that received tremendous publicity around its simultaneous launch in four major UK cities. It is a statement of intent that no one can afford to ignore.
State of Nature has been produced to make sure we are all proceeding with an accurate sense of the challenges and priorities ahead. Along with our partners we gathered – for the first time – the best data on the status of species in the UK and its Overseas Territories (UKOTs) to assess the overall health of nature, which of course has direct implications for the current and future well-being of humanity. Indeed the RSPB’s current appeal is raising much-needed funding for UKOTs – a woefully under-resourced area of UK responsibility.
We know that 60% of the species for which data are available have declined over recent decades, 31% strongly so. Nature is in a profound state of flux. Over one in ten of the species assessed are threatened with extinction in the UK. All this reinforces the conclusions reached in 2010 that nature is continuing to decline. The pressures on the natural world are growing. However – and worryingly – our response to the biodiversity crisis is actually slowing.
The State of Nature audit has been a wake-up call for all of us. We know that we all need to do more to inspire moral, political and practical support for nature conservation. The report, produced in this time of austerity, is helping to stimulate a public debate about what we need to do to live in harmony with nature and to ensure its and our own future.
What is also clear is that to meet the challenges ahead we need to find new and greater resources – financial, volunteer and other forms of support. We are also embarking on a concerted effort to reconnect children with the natural world outside. Everyone, in whatever way they can, needs to buy in. We need more ‘Minox challenges’! (Thank you, Mark!)
We are very proud that so many organisations joined forces with us on Saving Nature and the Wild Network I know we are all determined to make a real difference for the fortunes of UK wildlife.
So, thank you again Mark for offering to donate the proceeds of this auction towards the challenges we face. Whichever organisation receives this valuable funding, I am confident they will use the money well.