A rather fluffy gauntlet – the report

Response for Nature reports launchedThe Response for Nature report by 26 wildlife organisations in England is unexceptionable and unexceptional.

There is nothing wrong with it and nothing very new or exciting either.  It is the semolina of wildlife reports – you couldn’t really dislike it but I’d be surprised if it’s your favourite.  In fact it’s a bit gruel-like too – rather thin but just maybe good for you.

Such weak fare may be because there is little intellectual leadership in the wildlife NGOs, combined with the fact that when 26 organisations get together the best they can agree on is some feeble lowest common denominator so even the good ideas get watered down.

It’s difficult dealing with a government that is already planning for delivering nature by 2040 rather than meeting the 2020 targets it agreed – but this report gives too much ground away.  If the situation is urgent and dire, which these NGOs say it is, then what is the plan for the next 12 months? And what happens if government doesn’t implement it?  The correct reaction to the government 25-year plan is ‘ You didn’t make the 2010 targets. You aren’t going to meet the 2020 targets. We have no interest in your fiction for 2040 – we aren’t that gullible.  We will slag you off to your electorate every day from now until the next general election unless you come up with a proper plan to attempt to address the urgency of the wildlife crisis.’

When ministers say that they have been ‘challenged’ it almost always means that they are relieved that it wasn’t worse – only when they get stroppy might they be feeling challenged.

What is the toughest thing that wildlife NGOs have done to this government in the past five and a half years? Can you remember any line in the sand? And all the time nature suffers.

With the six million people that support the organisations behind this report the NGOs have considerable power if they mobilise it and use it.  But they don’t.

Defra is arguably the weakest department in Whitehall, with the most uninterested and weakest Secretary of State.  Defra is not the friend of the wildlife NGOs, nor of nature itself – the NGOs should mobilise their membership to go over the heads of the Dire, Egregious, Failing, Risible and Adrift Defra and go straight to MPs and leading politicians. Nature deserves better than this.

By Adam Morgan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Adam Morgan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
"Bybyhandschuhe 2011 PD 05" by Bin im Garten - Own work (own picture). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bybyhandschuhe_2011_PD_05.JPG#/media/File:Bybyhandschuhe_2011_PD_05.JPG
“Bybyhandschuhe 2011 PD 05” by Bin im Garten – Own work (own picture). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bybyhandschuhe_2011_PD_05.JPG#/media/File:Bybyhandschuhe_2011_PD_05.JPG
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2 Replies to “A rather fluffy gauntlet – the report”

  1. The statement in the England Response for Nature report that caught my eye is this:

    Saving nature cannot be the job of just one Government department. The 25-year plan to restore biodiversity must be owned and supported across Whitehall.

    To me this approach simply isn't credible. I can't see rival departments that have to compete for scarce resources cooperating to support a plan that they don't own. I speak from bitter experience of managing cross-functional initiatives in a large organisation dominated by big egos!

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  2. Mark,

    Your feelings regarding the 'Response for Nature' event/report very much mirror my own. I simply cannot move myself to being at all inspired by such reports or events any more. We all know that nature is declining, we all know what 'should' be done, but another wildlife report isn't going to force that change.

    Despite coming from a background which was brought up believing whole-heartedly in the conservation movement (and of course I do still support these charities), I do find myself being drawn further towards the grass-roots. I now believe that any meaningful change must come from the bottom up and it is the NGOs' positions to support those movements. Take a look, for example, at the success of Sea Shepherd's recent campaign to halt illegal toothfish poaching in Antarctica. A bunch of volunteers, grass-roots activists, successfully shone a light on the illegal fishing activities. Yes, they engaged in direct action which resulted in one poaching vessel being scuttled by its officers to hide evidence of their activities. But more importantly, they shamed governments into action. Theirs was the pebble that started the landslide.

    I don't know what the answer is, but I do believe that the time for reports and strategies has passed. What we need now is action. The question is, will the current crop of NGOs have the courage to stand up and say “enough is enough”? Will they move themselves to join with and support the grass-roots (supporting your petition would be a good start…!)? Will they realise that conservation is a movement which will continue with or without them?

    If so, they may find that they already have a multitude of supporters ready to unite behind them.

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