The Minox Challenge – you decide


Seven organisations took up the Minox challenge on this blog; they each wrote a Guest Blog on why they should get your support.  All made their cases strongly and clearly.

Here are the links to the individual blogs:


Joanna Bromley/Plantlife

Mike Clarke/rspb

Andy Clements/BTO

Stephanie Hilborne/The Wildlife Trusts

Andrew McLeish/MARINElife

Matt Shardlow/Buglife

Martin Warren/Butterfly Conservation


In a few days, probably next week, and probably on eBay, I will auction the pair of Minox 10x43HD binoculars donated by MinoxUK and the proceeds will go to the charity that you, the readers of this blog, select.

Who gets your vote? Voting closes on Sunday evening.


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36 Replies to “The Minox Challenge – you decide”

  1. Mark, thanks for this exercice. I decided to try to keep an open mind and not automatically vote for a usual suspect. Indeed, I surprised myself to discover that on pure readability and engagement, my vote didn't go the way of any flying creature.

    Well, perhaps indirectly.

    An interesting personal journey for me. Many thanks.

  2. I think this is a reverse Hobson's Choice - they're all good enough to deserve it. As Matt Shardlow pointed out, donations to NGOs iare dropping, at a time when they need our support more than ever. We shouldn't be trying to divide suppport, we should be uniting to fight for our natural world and environment together. Can't you just share it amongst them or start a central fund!

  3. Although I have voted for one I rather share Sue's view that rather than most loose out it should perhaps go to all.

    1. If we really do believe that 'we are all in this together' and we trust each other to co-operate then any one organisation receiving a larger sum to do something worthwhile with might actually be better than splitting it!
      The money might be best used by the smallest group but that's not really the object of the exercise: I need to read the blogs again before voting.

  4. Mark

    Really interesting exercise but I find it hard to vote for any. Surely the only way that conservation can be successful is for all of these organisations to be a catalyst of collaboration. None demonstrated that they do this as one of their core objectives.

    I would keep them.


  5. The articles are an interesting read but this 'competition' aspect is pointless. I imagine MinoxUK are paying you to advertise their product, are you also going to donate this to the winning charity?

    Yes, by all means incorporate the great work these organisations are doing, but why pit them against each other?

    1. Ian

      Mark didn't have to do this; either offer the binoculars for auction, or offer the proceeds to a charity, not necessarily of his choice. In a world of 'me', I think this is very generous, unlike your comment.

      And as for pitting charities against each other, well that's the status quo. So any money in this auction is a 'bonus'. They didn't have to compete.


  6. These are organisations that are increasingly working powerfully in partnership and unifying their voices for nature at a time when we need to sing louder than ever before. I hope that, whoever tops the poll, they use the proceeds for actions that make such partnership even stronger and more likely to have real impact: an auction for shared action on nature.

    1. Steve, I totally agree with your thoughts. Unfortunately such partnerships may well be strong in action but to get finance they all have to market each organisation in potential opposition to each other. I suspect the time will come soon when we see some of these partnerships having to become amalgamations.

  7. Read through the blogs and I had to vote for the NGO which seems to be tackling over zealous management which has caused the decline of many habitats and species despite the aims of the organisations to enhance biodiversity. Conservation management in my mind is very much a threat to wildlife and biodiversity on local sites which I visit.

  8. I think the the money should go to the Wildlife Trusts who have to raise every penny they spend, not only on equipment and vehicles, but staff, computers, buildings, everything. They do such essential good work through the countryside for habitats and people and are a powerful lobby for wildlife.

  9. The answer is "None of the above". Get as much as you can at auction then pay the fuel bill for someone in fuel poverty this winter. Easy come, easy go ...

  10. If you vote for Buglife, you help save 98% of all taxa. Now that's a lot of biodiversity. That's where my vote has gone.

    But I agree that all of the candidates are worthy winners. Not often you can say that in an 'election'!


    1. I voted purely on which had the best solutions to tackle habitat loss and species decline in Britain. I voted for Buglife

  11. Interesting accusation and in poor taste by Jono Leadley.

    Mark is independent / freelance and as such far more likley to be trusted than a regional quasi quango?

    1. Apologies to Mark for my comment. It was just the contrast between being able to see the likes and dislikes on the individual blogs to the vote where it is hidden.

  12. I think all of them said exactly what they thought would get them the votes,some of them are just really politicians not always doing what they say they will.
    I agree with Filbert,give to someone worthwhile.
    My guess is as a massive landowner the rspb picks up massive subsidies under
    Pillar 1 payments while campaigning to get them changed for all farmers so that some Pillar 1 payments swapped over to Pillar 2.
    Hope Mark would tell me if this is correct and if it is surely there is a word that describes that sort of action.

    1. Dennis - yes wildlife NGOs get payments under Pillar 1 like any other landowner would. The more land - the more payment. Unlike most large landowners, the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts are asking for those automatic payments (which they receive) to be reduced and the money switched to environmental payments. There is a word (two, actually) that describes that sort of action - public spirited.

      1. Well said Mark.

        In my experience both the rspb and TWT's have, very sensibly, made the best use of agri-environment scheme payments on their landholdings and in most cases will have all of their land entered into the appropriate agri-environment scheme annual revenue option.

        Agri-environment scheme payment rates, which are calculated on an income foregone basis, are paid at set rates and payment rates per ha are unaffected by the size of the agri-environment budget.

        Most of the land holdings owned by the rspb and TWT's are recognised as important nature conservation sites (SSSIs, SACs, RAMSAR sites, LNRs, County Wildlife Sites etc). Sites of such nature conservation importance are always likely to be priorised for receiving agri-environment support, whether they be owned by NGOs or private landowners. In other words as long as agri-environment schemes exist, even if the pillar 2 budget were to be substantially cut (within reason), these sites can always expect to receive some form of support and are always likely to be at the front of the queue, and rightly so in my opinion. These sites are the Crown Jewels of the British landscape and are worthy of public support regardless of whoever owns them. Conservation is bloody expensive!

        Therefore by campaigning for more money to be moved from pillar 1 to pillar 2, the public spirited rspb and TWT are in effect, campaigning to have money removed from their pillar 1 SPS payments, which more than likely would end up being paid to private landowners and farmers via pillar 2 schemes. This could be through an agri-environment scheme, a grant for a farm diversification project or a subsidised training course.

        So those folks who post critical comments about organisations on a public forum without bothering to equate themselves with the facts....well there are several choice words which spring to mind!

  13. I already belong and give to four of the applicants so will vote for one of the others on this occasion. I am disappointed by some of the comments about Mark's motives and congratulate him on all the effort he puts into his excellent blog and the amount of great discussion that it stimulates.
    The British public this week have demonstrated their huge concern about the underprivileged, disabled and disadvantaged throughout the world with their contributions to the Philippines, Syrians and Children in Need. It is improbable that a similar response would happen for the environment but the generosity is there if it can be tapped in to! Mark's own generosity is an example.

  14. Interesting exercise. A few points spring to mind.

    Let’s not get too bogged down in the rights and wrongs of what Mark is doing. Yes, you could say it is a gimmicky exercise, but it is stimulating thought and debate about wildlife conservation and the organisations that carry the torch(es). I'm guessing that is what Mark is intending.

    Nice to see a number of Saving Nature references sprinkled throughout this. What is essentially a divisive exercise competing for money has shown common ground and a common theme. The Wildlife NGOs need to work together as much as possible at the moment and I see genuine signs that they are.

    An exercise like this favours the small. It is a small sum of money in the scheme of things and most people (myself included) will vote outside of the usual suspects. It isn’t our money being donated after all. Mike Clarke’s blog as good as acknowledges this (and I suspect RSPB couldn’t win in this exercise whatever they wrote or whether they took part or not. We’ll see though).

    I’m a member of a Wildlife Trust but was disappointed by their blog. Less public spirited than it might have been but I guess the Trusts are stuck in no man’s land here. Too big to get the small vote and too small to be as magnanimous as the RSPB stance.

    So I will vote for a minnow. Probably Bug Life (met a couple of the staff the other day and was very impressed). But, if the question were different, and I was asked to give the money to an organisation that actually stood a chance of making a difference, or saving a species, it would go to the RSPB.

    Good blog Mark.

  15. Mark,very funny,public spirited,that's the best one yet.
    Lets be unbiased and suggest that the rspb claims these subsidies that incidentally you hate paying taxes for farmers to receive(I understand that).
    Move on to the fact that at a guess there are 20 million taxpayers in UK(that figure not that important but whatever it will be a very large number).
    It must mean that at least 19 million dissatisfied people having to pay taxes for rspb to spend on things they could not care about in this country and even abroad.
    Of course they are paying taxes for the benefit of rspb members enjoyment.
    Sometimes I wonder why conservationists cannot see how lucky we are to receive the funding our hobby receives.

    1. Dennis - I'm glad you liked that.

      You misrepresent my views, so let me spell them out again. I think that Single Farm Payments represent poor value for money to the taxpayer. They are simply income support and don't go to those landowners who most deserve support - so they are a very poor way to spend my taxes. But the payments go with the land and so it doesn't really make any difference whether all of Britain is owned by the duke of Westminster or the RSPB - the payments would be the same. I have consistently been of the view that there ought to be a cap on the level of this untargetted support available to any single land-owner (including the NT, Wildlife Trusts and RSPB). That's still what I think.

      According to your argument, because there are about 200,000 farmers in the UK, there must be 19.8 million people who are dissatisfied with all the payments!

      Sometimes I wonder why farmers cannot see how lucky they are to receive the funding that their businesses receive.

      The RSPB and Wildlife Trusts, recipients of agricultural subsidies, are arguing for the system to change in ways that would disadvantage themselves. Not much chance of the NFU or CLA doing that very often. So, yes, public spirited isn't a bad choice of words.

  16. What is funny Mark is that from your comment put that way we agree entirely but I do not think I misrepresented your views certainly not intentional anyway.Fact is you have stated many times that you do not like your taxes going to Pillar 1.
    Of course you are almost certainly right about the 19.8 million being unhappy at giving money to farmers although if it comes to the crunch between giving towards food or conservation food will win almost every time and even if you disagree about the subsidies go towards food there is no doubt farmers produce food.
    Your figures taken from my argument(yes that is funny)are slightly wrong or even substantially wrong in the sense that all those farmers on wildlife helpful schemes realise how lucky they are to get public money and I suspect although from NFU policy it appears that everyone is behind that policy facts prove differently in the sense that lots of individuals are trying to improve wildlife.There is a long way to go but there are obstacles in the way,the biggest one perhaps people not seeing farmers points of view on lots of issues.There are problems for farmers that need the public to be sympathetic to otherwise farmers help will be held back.
    There simply has to be give and take or some compromise in my opinion.
    Example is a young family with limited capital rented a farm bought 60 cows and of course those cows were tested before going to that farm then within a year 20% failed BTB test so he had a massive loss,the public need to understand that that infection came from Badgers surely where else could it have come from,in cases like this something just desperately needs doing,something no one seems to understand.

  17. All organisations put their points well, though some appear to be too focussed on human well-being when concerned with nature conservation. I arrived at the site too late to vote but RSPB would have got my vote with BTO running a close second. In some ways all deserve some of the funds but that will make them less effective. I may be biased as having recently been involved in the second hearing for a Joint Core Strategy planning inspection it was the RSPB that was putting the case for the wildlife of our SSSIs to be protected from adverse development. Natural England was nowhere to be seen, this year or in 2012 having been virtually destroyed by DEFRA in my opinion. Shame on them! All wildlife organisations need strong support at the present time because our current Government is the worst ever for wildlife conservation, as I believe the Environment Secretary of State was informed on the radio this week by 25 of such organisations!


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