Guest blog – the 25-year plan and my visit to No 10 by Findlay Wilde

Last November I was invited to meet with Sir John Randall, the PM’s special adviser on the environment, to discuss environmental policy and some of the many issues that need addressing. During that meeting with Sir John (and you can read the full details here), I talked about how I can see the impacts of climate change within just my lifetime and the need to look and plan further ahead. Sir John’s response was as follows:

I hope that you will be pleased with the 25 year environmental plan when it is published, which I hope will be early in the New Year. I was interested to hear about your #Think500YearsAhead campaign. Of course the real urgency is how to start these processes and while it is easy to set targets the question is how to achieve them and how to monitor progress. Also of course we have to consider what to do if those targets are not being achieved.”

Since that meeting the government have published their 25 year environment plan, but does it address the things we talked about back in November?

Well firstly, is 25 years long enough? It is a great start of course, but does it look far enough ahead.  I know my #Think500YearsAhead campaign was too far the other way, but realistically just how far ahead should we be looking. We owe it to future generations to look far enough ahead to safeguard the environment for them, so maybe 50 – 100 years would be better, with the detail being in the next 25 years, but then a longer term plan to drive on going change.

Education was a key issue we talked about at No 10. I do believe that real and continuous change can only come about through awareness and an understanding of why things need to change, otherwise people will not buy into the changes that need to be made. There was talk of engaging people with nature and the environment in the 25 year plan, but I was hoping for more. I would have liked to see the environment and climate change being built into the curriculum in primary and secondary education. Not just engagement with nature, but a real understanding of the impact we are having on the planet and the reasons why this needs to change.

Plastic was another subject we spent quite some time on and it has been great to see how much this has been in the news and the growing awareness. It’s scary just how reliant we are on plastic for so much of our everyday lives.  I believe plastic could have a whole section in the 25 year plan to itself, but it is positive to see how many people are waking up to the growing issue it is. Change needs to happen quickly on this, but it will be a huge task to “eliminate avoidable plastic waste by end of 2042”.

We did of course talk about driven grouse shooting during my time at No 10 and therefore I found this statement in the 25 year plan particularly frustrating “populations of animals have been successfully recovered or reintroduced: there are now over 2,000 breeding pairs of red kites in the UK; otters are now found in every English county and we are testing the waters with the Eurasian beaver in Devon and the Forest of Dean.”

All these are great examples of successes, and yet the government is allowing illegal activity to push another species to the brink in the UK.  We had just 3 successful breeding pairs of Hen Harrier in England last year and risk losing this iconic bird through the ongoing illegal persecution. I understand that a 25 year plan is not going to be specific to one species, but the plan does not reassure me that this situation will be reversed by those in power.  I really would like to see a non-shooting led uplands management plan for so many reasons.

Having a plan for the environment is of course a real positive and there are lots of great initiatives within it; but “frustrating” is the word that probably sums up how I really feel about the plan. For example, the talk of clean water, enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment and managing exposure to chemicals all sound great, but then the government are pushing ahead with fracking which puts all these things at risk.  We talked about renewable energy at No 10.  We will never find the next big re-newable solution unless we invest more into renewable energy research.  The next big thing probably hasn’t even been invented yet, it could be just round the corner, but it will never happen if we don’t invest.  Within the plan they talk of planting new trees which is fantastic, but what about all the ancient woodland under threat, it takes hundreds of years to get that back.  The new ideas and schemes will only be effective if at the same time we stop our damaging practices the are impacting our established natural environemnts.

The biggest thing that sticks in my head when I look at the report is just how much damage we have done. Everything that the 25 year plan is trying to achieve is necessary because of the impact the human population has had.  And that population just keeps growing!

 

by Findlay Wilde, 16-year-old wildlife campaigner.

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3 Comments

  1. SteB says:

    Absolutely brilliant. Findlay has nailed it. It's so difficult to create a good summary of something so complex. Usually when I read a piece, even one I largely agree with, I think this bit could have been explained better, I wished they'd dealt with this or that. But there is not one thing I could have explained better.

    I feel quite emotional that we have young people who have got such a good grasp of the situation. There is more wisdom here than in the whole of parliament put together. This is because self-evidently Findlay understands that this is not just the natural world as if it were something separate from this, it is about the future of humankind. Thank you.

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  2. Keith Dancey says:

    Well said, Findley. We face extremely difficult times, and thinking 500 years ahead is no bad thing, but a bit out of our range of experience. At my age I have experienced the dramatic loss of wildlife abundance brought about by the loss of habitat, and patching up losses of biodiversity alone does not make full amends. I dare say my parents' generation could say the same?

    The bottom of the terrestrial food chains have been seriously depleted by human population growth: seeds and insects.

    We are consuming natural resources much faster than they can possibly be replaced, and at an increasing rate which cannot last, for some of them, more than even the next few decades.

    And we have dramatically changed the Earth's atmosphere.

    On top of this there is the duplicitous behaviour of people in positions of power and responsibility who seek much more than their fair share of money and who could not care less about 500 years ahead!

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  3. Roderick Leslie says:

    'Frustrating' strikes me as a pretty good summation, Findlay.

    One thought; I don't think we should ignore the power of ideas: it's extraordinary how once an idea is out there it can gain a life of it's own. there is a limit to what criticism and comment can achieve, and the current assumption that it's Government's job to come up with answers is disastrous - they're just not going to. So, we should be letting our imaginations free because actually nothing is impossible - why shouldn't we have wild areas right next to where we live ? And what should they look like ? Is it really true we'll all starve if 5% of our farmland were turned into less intensively managed habitat for wildlife and for people ?

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