That power list

PowerListThe BBC Wildlife Power List is being talked about wherever I go – well, not in the Post Office, or the supermarket, or the garage… But talked about by the nature conservation community? It certainly is!

Thanks very much to Ben Hoare for his Guest Blog on the subject on Tuesday – some interesting points made there.

But let’s be honest, it’s who isn’t there that is most interesting isn’t it?  I was told by the spin doctor of one large wildlife NGO that, of course, no-one takes these lists very seriously, and, of course, one doesn’t – provided one is on the list. It’s a little bit like a conversation I had with John Krebs about 30 years ago when a colleague and I had had a really good (in our opinion) paper on Great Tit memory of songs rejected by the journal Nature. John said to me that getting published in Nature was a bit of a lottery and it wasn’t always the best papers that made it into what was at the time regarded as the world’s ‘top’ science journal. I thanked him for trying to make me feel better but said it was easier for him to say that after having published loads of papers there than it was for me having a zero-for-one record. The spin doctor’s Chief Exec wasn’t on the Power List.

The Chief Execs of the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, WWF and many smaller NGOs are not on the list. And few of these organisations have any representatives.  Must mean something?  I think that the senior members of some NGOs suffer from the same problem as many senior members of the Labour Party (first, they aren’t in power!) – and that is that they seem to be speaking a language unknown to normal people. It’s all about aspiration, well-being, narrative and pride in the past, and a little too little about taking us forward with enthusiasm to a better future by a well-developed plan.

Come to that, the Chief Execs of Natural England and the Environment Agency aren’t there either, and nor are their Chairs. If this list had been compiled 30 years ago there would have been quite a few NCC names, and ITE names, in such a list. It’s a sign that the statutory agencies are no longer seen as a powerful force for good. Because they aren’t, are they? Where are the Derek Ratcliffes, Martin Doughtys, Barbara Youngs, Andy Browns and many many more junior staff of the past, in the wildlife Power List of today? They are absent from the list, because if they exist in real life, they remain very well hidden.

And no civil servants – although the aim of a civil servant is not to be noticed, I can think of times when there were such good individuals that such a list would have wanted to recognise them.

avatar2And no-one from GWCT, BASC (both of whom have C for conservation in their titles), the Moorland Association, the NFU or the CLA. Not even a token member to show how much we love them, and how much we have in common; none.

And captains of industry? Nope!

I was very pleased that both Caroline Lucas MP and Zac Goldsmith MP were listed – and maybe a case could have been made for a Labour MP but then again, maybe not after the Labour manifesto was so wildlife-light.

Crikey! Nature’s in a bad way if its most noted champions are a few bloggers, authors, activists, media personalities, scientists and kids isn’t it?

But, luckily, once the many almost-powerless gather together, then they have considerable power. Several of us on the Power List see it as our mission to try to mobilise and energise the millions who care about wildlife with a deep passion. NGOs should be doing more in that direction too – I wish I had a million or so subscribers to my blog!

I notice that Bob didn’t get elected by the way – did he keep his deposit?

You are the wildlife Power List – you are the power.



15 Replies to “That power list”

  1. Sadly the usual suspect NGOs despite good staff and some excellent projects are no longer the force for nature they were? They appear to be project managers and have to be concerned with ensuring they secure funding to ‘stand still’ never mind expand and actually champion nature by challenging. There is the occasional headline (Badger Trust & badgers, RSPB & Walshaw) but voice for nature? New groups emerge BAWC and look at their impact on persecution profile? You hint at a case they ought to be there perhaps, but the fact they are not is down to their own performance? Conversely the BBC Wildlife panel observations / perceptions?

    Let’s be positive, Caroline Lucas was there as indeed were you!

    Natural England – how long before they are culled by this government? ‘Right to buy’, how about a critical mass requiring a new independent guardian (not a tourism of people directorate)? How about a new model including how it is funded, who it is managed by and who/how it is accountable?

    The EA, will become water managers to manaqe floods and flood risk in ‘key areas’?

  2. Welcome back comments. I have missed you. The power behind the Power Listed.

  3. It was a truly bizarre list. And I was on it. I may be an annoyance and various other things, but power and influence are not my forte. I often wish they were, but they are not. But lists sell magazines, and it would appear that the dumber the list, the more magazines it is presumed to sell.
    BBC Wildlife Magazine has an extensive list of editorial advisers. I am one; I was not asked for advice. I phoned another Adviser not on the power list, and he was not consulted either. This may explain why so many powerless people were listed, and so many powerful people were ignored. And why Wildlife arch-Blogger Mark Avery was omitted from a list of bloggers, despite having more followers than 9 out of the 10 listed. I do feel it would have been polite to ask if we wanted to be listed. As someone who has repeatedly blogged negatively about awards and prizes I am rather being hoist in my own petard…..

  4. “The statutory agencies are no longer seen as a powerful force for good” maybe true in the high profile, policy-influencing sense – but you’d miss them if they were gone. Water quality and SSSIs don’t look after themselves and there’s still a lot going on behind the scenes, influencing the individuals who have most of the land in this country. There’s a risk in talking down the agencies in that it might make the government think no-one will care if/when budgets are slashed again. Its time there was some proper campaigning to keep (or preferably restore) these important bodies.

    1. There was in 1997, they (EN as they were then) got an extra £6m after we (conservationists) made represenmtations & any improvement since, sadly they went from “muzzled” to the current lapdogs & even their own staff are in despair.

      1. Do you think it is the agencies’ own fault that they have lost their independence? Or is it perhaps that successive governments have taken it away? The NERC Act was the start of the rot – which allows government to direct NE what to say. It is also very easy for government to intimidate managers by gently hinting that if they don’t take a particular line, that their funding will be drastically cut or the organisation will cease to exist altogether. Unless someone comes to their defence, this process will continue and the environment will be the poorer for it

  5. You are doing just great Mark even without a million subscribers.The RSPB does so much good with most of the personel on the ground great people but I guess the majority of its membership are sqeumish about raptors and so while talking softly about the illegal persecution of them they seem to always be defending thier soft position as opposed to attack the persecution that is happening.In effect I guess they do not want to upset majority of membership.

    1. Since the Hen Harrier is all but extinct in England it is clearly true that the RSPB has not done enough to save it – but then again nor has anyone else! I am certain though that the RSPB’s stance on persecution of raptors is not dictated by any presumed squeamishness of its membership about birds of prey. That idea is as demonstrably false as the ludicrous suggestion of YFTB and others that the RSPB is obsessed by birds of prey at the expense of other birds.
      For years the RSPB has been investigating and where possible prosecuting those responsible for wildlife crimes and I think it has nothing to be ashamed of regarding its record in that respect. Arguments can be made that it needs to change its tactics in the fight to end persecution of birds of prey on grouse moors – after all, the present approach is not working – but I don’t think it is fair to suggest that it has been pulling its punches in order to avoid offending some hypothetical member in Middle England who doesn’t like to see the blue tits in her garden ripped apart by a sparrowhawk.

      1. Jonathon,you said it”the present approach is not working”.
        There is something seriously wrong when they make out they will try and stop the persecution while at the same time more or less ignore to give any help to three petions that have come from private individuals.
        Just think of the incredible numbers these petitions would have acchieved with RSPB promoting them.Maybe they have a serious issue with as they may see it individuals treading on their toes.Whatever it is their talk,talk and more talk has not helped the Hen Harrier one bit and all the time they have been busy on vote for BOB.

  6. “But talked about by the nature conservation community? It certainly is!”

    Really? That would be seriously depressing if it were true but I don’t think it is, this is the only place I’ve seen any mention of this pointless list.

  7. If the question was “who will make the most difference to wildlife over the next decade” I am a little surprised to see David Attenborough on the list. He is undoubtedly a great man who has made a phenomenal contribution to raising public awareness of the awesome beauty, diversity and fragility of life on earth but – assuming he is still alive – he will be almost 100 years old by 2025. By all means heap any and every award imaginable onto him for a lifetime of achievement but it seems very unrealistic and, I’d have to say, a rather pessimistic view to expect him to be amongst the five people who will make the most difference over the next ten years.

  8. One who made the list is quoted as saying in response “All I have really done is try to speak the truth …”. Should this not be a common aim of all who aspire to be conservationists – overriding ideological leanings, neo-Malthusianism, misanthropy, self-aggrandisement and the like? I wonder what the list would look like after application of appropriate filters – a bit less pointless?

  9. With a few obvious exceptions (eg Goulson, Shardlow, Packham), this is a list of people who have failed to make any mark in terms of stemming the decline of the UKs wildlife. To comment is tricky because all these people are good people but if they are having influence in a positive way, it is not very obvious. Perhaps it is more of a reflection of society? A general obsession with social media, style without much substance and harking back to past glories. What would be great would be a list of the top 50 jobs/positions that should be making a difference but are not with an analysis of why not.

  10. Conservation heroes are the people who are living their lives in the right way to benefit conservation and the planet. They too will have the most influence and the most effect. We just need more of them.

    Nothing to do with a list of people who make a tidy living out of it. They are the mainstream that has failed and is failing as you read this. Stop waiting for others to do things. Do them yourself and pass it on.

  11. The list was nothing to do with ‘power’ or influence, and eveything to do with media profile. It was a list of media people, created for a media company’s magazine (let’s not forget that the BBC is an entertainment media organisation, not a conservation or scientific organisation). Packham, Goodall, Avery, Attenborough, even Goldsmith, virtually everyone on the list has been involved with the media and making a noise in one way or another. They were mostly the advocates. The people who provide the ammunition for the advocates (i.e. the researchers, scientists, those who come up with the hypotheses and the P values) were all missing, like the civil servants and heads of NGOs, because they don’t have high-profile blogs, twitter account, editorships of magazines, don’t get arrested in Malta or at a fracking protest, and don’t dress up as a Hen Harrier. So it’s not surprising that the BBC mostly selected people that have a high media profile (how many were linked with the BBC, I wonder?). And it’s not surprising that a media magazine failed to notice the people who actually do the hard graft that gives the ‘power list’ something to shout about. It’s a pretty meaningless list. When was the last time Jane Goodall produced any tangible leaps forward? Did she solve the clean energy crisis, formulate a method of sustainable intensification, or solve the riddle of global bird declines while I wasn’t looking?

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