Getting the message across?

Here are the quotes sent out by the organisations who are part of this joint effort. I’ve ordered them by how much I like them – most-liked at the top. Basically, the message that needs to be got across is : 1, what’s the problem? 2, why should I care? and 3, what needs to be done by whom? and that has strongly informed my ranking of quotes. But so too has avoidance of corporate-speak, avoidance of simply plugging your own organisation, novelty, length, clarity and grammar.

Paul de Zylva, campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: “As we lose nature we lose a huge part of what makes us happy and healthy. The UK’s ministers and business persist in planning and funding – often with public money – disastrous projects and practices which will only continue to destroy nature. Our government has made repeated declarations in recent years to halt, and reverse, the decline of nature – even leading negotiations on global commitments around this. The years following have shown a complete inability to do any more than ‘talk the talk’; setting targets as little more than a PR exercise without any ambition to follow through on them.”

Nikki Williams, Director of Campaigns and Policy at The Wildlife Trusts: “Nature is in big trouble but we know how to bring it back. Local action is already making a real difference and now the government needs to play its part. We need a Nature Recovery Network established in law – one that is locally developed and nationally connected – this would help join up our last remaining wild places by creating vital new habitats. It’s time to make nature a normal part of childhood again and restore wildlife so it can recover and thrive across urban jungles and the countryside once more – where it can be part of people’s daily lives.”

Dominic Jermey CVO, OBE, Director General, ZSL (Zoological Society of London) said: “The continuing loss of the UK’s wildlife is obviously of huge concern but we mustn’t give up hope as conservation successes are happening too, even in the most unpromising conditions. The river Thames, for example, was declared ‘biologically dead’ in the 1950s but thanks to dedicated measures to restore habitat and tackle pollution, is now a thriving ecosystem home to more than 100 species of fish including seahorses, eels and sharks; porpoises; and a growing seal population too. It can be done!”

Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB: “Nature is still being lost across the UK at a deeply concerning rate. Many of the pressures and threats driving these declines – like nature itself – do not respect national boundaries.  Whilst governments across the UK have recognised the climate and environment crises threatening our natural world – and that restoring the natural world can provide some of the solutions we need – there desperately needs to be more immediate action and cooperation on the protection of nature between the four countries. We need ambitious legislation with binding targets to not only halt nature’s decline but secure its recovery. And we need that legislation now.”

Jenny Hawley, Senior Policy Officer, Plantlife said “Plants fuel the diversity of life on earth: they are the building blocks of all habitats and the foundation of complex food-webs that include all our other wildlife including insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. We know one in five British wild flowers is under threat and continued declines, as revealed today, must be urgently addressed if we are to better protect the wealth of wonderful wildlife plants underpin. This means doing much more to unroot the drivers of decline such as the intensification of agriculture, climate change, and air pollution. Where wild flowers lead, wildlife follows: the marsh fritillary butterfly feeds almost exclusively on devil’s-bit scabious, so lives or dies according to the prospects of its food plant.”

Andy McCutcheon, Principal Environment Services Officer, Agriculture, Countryside & Land Management Services (ACLMS): “Guernsey welcomes the opportunity to be part of the State of Nature report.  The report paints a picture which should concern everyone. We have had a Biodiversity Strategy in place for nearly four years and this report forces us to face facts. It is only by understanding what we are losing and how we are losing it that we can begin to reverse the serious decline in our species rich habitats such as unimproved grassland.”

Dr Jacob Bedford, University of Plymouth said: “Our marine environment is undergoing continued change as a result of both direct human pressures and climate change, including the reshuffling of plankton communities which support the UK marine food web. It is only through continued monitoring that impacts of pressures such as overfishing and climate change can be efficiently assessed and managed. Given our reliance on the ecosystem services provided by a healthy and functioning marine ecosystem, it is crucial that conservation of marine biodiversity is kept high on the political agenda.”

Dr Mark Wright, Director of Science at WWF said: “We know that nature is in crisis and our wildlife is disappearing – we are in the midst of a nature and climate emergency right here at home. If we want a planet that still has butterflies and bats, with clean air and water that is protected for future generations, then we need a response that matches the scale of the challenge we are facing. The decisions made in the year ahead will determine the future of our world and the wildlife we share it with. Recent polls have shown the environment is a top priority for UK voters and we must work together to press the government to urgently introduce ambitious new laws to protect and restore our environment as we leave the EU. The new Environment Bill must be world-leading with bold legal targets and a strong watchdog that hold the government legally accountable for halting the loss of nature at home and overseas. It is time for leaders to unite behind the biggest issue of our generation and catalyse a movement to save our planet.”

Dr Helen Smith, Conservation Officer, British Arachnological Society, said: “Invertebrates are at the heart of healthy ecosystems, far outnumbering vertebrates in numbers of species and abundance. With well over a million spider records collected entirely by expert volunteers, this important group can now form part of our assessment of the state of nature. Half of our 688 species are either nationally scarce or rare and 16% are threatened with extinction. More encouragingly, species recovery programmes for two of our rarest and most spectacular species – the Fen Raft Spider and Ladybird Spider – show that targeted research and conservation action can restore sustainable populations for the future.”

David Noble, Principal Ecologist at the BTO: “We owe a huge debt to the thousands of volunteers who give up their time to take part in the huge range of surveys that enable us to produce reports such as this.  There is considerable change in the plants and wildlife we share this country with, and it is essential to understand the underlying causes, identify species and habitats under most pressure and collectively take appropriate conservation action.  Without the dedication of these volunteer naturalists, our knowledge and capacity to respond would be very much poorer – thank you to them all.”

Hendrikus van Hensbergen, Chief Executive, Action for Conservation said: “Action for Conservation is proud to be a partner of the State of Nature 2019 report and to have supported many of the inspiring young people involved in the publication through our programmes. Young people are already at the heart of driving solutions to the climate and biodiversity crisis and we should further encourage them to share their voice and advocate for change. The State of Nature Report is a wake-up call. The stark declines in UK wildlife are already impacting the resilience of nature, the climate and our own livelihoods and we must take urgent steps to turn this situation around. I hope that the report will inspire more young people to take up this vital cause.”

Gill Perkins, CEO Bumblebee Conservation Trust said: “Once again the State of Nature team has provided a valuable update on what’s happening to the UK’s wildlife. The full report published today complements the day to day work we and 1000s of citizen scientists do on bumblebees. We know from our ‘BeeWalk’ citizen science recording scheme that some of our commonest bumblebees are in decline. We all have much to do to ensure that we reverse the declines, in both species and habitat quality, to ensure the the UK’s full range of wildlife is both thriving and valued.”

Toos van Noordwijk, Director of Science, Policy and Innovation, Earthwatch said: “The 2019 State of Nature Report highlights the plight of our wildlife and shows that we are still a long way from leaving our environment in a better state than we found it, while the climate and biodiversity crises make painfully clear that this is desperately needed. Amidst this serious message, the report also provides inspiration and hope. Thanks to the incredible hard work and determination of conservation charities and their army of volunteers, there are signs of recovery in some areas. As individuals we can all take positive action for nature, for example by avoiding pesticides, planting for pollinators or installing homes or feeders for local wildlife. And of course, we will make the biggest difference by working together, whether that be communities uniting to transform neighbourhoods into Naturehoods, or farmers coming together to improve water quality through catchment sensitive farming.”

Dr Emily Dennis, Senior Ecological Statistician, Butterfly Conservation said: “Due to numerous pressures, butterfly and moth populations in the UK continue to show worrying declines. Through suitable management, some conservation successes of our most threatened species, such as Duke of Burgundy and Large Blue, show that conservation action and research are vital to help save species from further decline.”

Dr Gary Powney, Quantitative Ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, which compiled the distribution trends for the State of Nature Report, said: “Thanks to the efforts of wildlife recorders across the UK, we have access to a treasure trove of data. We analysed more than 60 million records relating to the geographical range of thousands of plant and animal species. The vast majority of recorders are volunteers, demonstrating the vital role that citizen scientists play helping us to monitor the health of our natural world and supporting important scientific research.”

Dr Kevin Walker, BSBI’s Head of Science said: “Britain’s wildlife is arguably the best monitored in the world thanks to the millions of hours invested by thousands of committed volunteer recorders. State of Nature 2019 utilises this unique resource to provide the most complete picture of the state of Britain’s wildlife ever assembled – and the results are alarming.  Whilst there are some ‘good news’ stories, up to half of the species in some groups are in serious trouble. Plants provide the bedrock of a healthy ecosystem and it is clear from the results that their declines are exacerbating more marked declines in other groups that rely on them, notably insects, mammals, birds and butterflies. However, there is hope – thanks to the work of the organisations that form the State of Nature partnership, we have an unrivalled understanding of why our wildlife is in trouble; the litany of causes includes habitat loss, modern farming methods, pollution, persecution and increasingly climate change. But we also have the knowledge, technologies and increasingly the public will to put things right; so let’s start to act now, as one united conservation movement, to make the changes needed for the good of British wildlife and for the generations to come. Our children and their children will thank us for it.”   

Dr Jo Judge, CEO of the National Biodiversity Network Trust said: “The 2019 State of Nature report highlights the issues facing the UK’s wildlife and that we need to take more action now.  We are extremely fortunate to have thousands of volunteers and amateur experts in this country – who have been recording and sharing their wildlife data for decades – and without whom a report like this would not have been possible.  It is these same volunteers who will be crucial in the continued monitoring of our natural world to see what progress we are making towards reversing the declines seen in this report.”

Clare Blencowe, Chair of the Association for Local Environmental Records Centres said: “In revealing the scale of ongoing wildlife decline, the latest State of Nature report highlights the tremendous value of the National Biodiversity Network: the thousands of volunteers, national organisations and local groups who together coordinate biological recording, monitor wildlife sites and provide essential insights into changes on the ground. Local Environmental Record Centres are proud of their role in ensuring data are available to inform local planning and decision-making, as well as countrywide assessments. The Local Nature Recovery Strategies now proposed by government could provide multiple benefits but will require local biodiversity information needs to be met if they are to deliver the best outcomes for people and nature; reinforcing the need for a cohesive UK environmental information infrastructure.”

Marcus Yeo, Chief Executive of JNCC, representing the country nature conservation bodies said: “We’re pleased to be able to work with our NGO partners to provide best available evidence that can be used by all to better understand how nature is changing across the UK. We recognise that the continuing declines in biodiversity require urgent action from across society.  This report also highlights success stories from which we can learn, and which should be celebrated. Conservation is successful when we all work together.”     

Rosie Hails, Nature and Science Director at the National Trust: “The UK’s wildlife is in serious trouble.  We know that over 40% of species have declined since 1970 and it’s simply not acceptable. We are now at a crossroads when we need to pull together with actions rather than words to stop and reverse the decline of those species at risk as well as protecting and creating new habitats in which they can thrive.

We need a strong new set of environmental laws to hold our governments and others to account and to set long-term and ambitious targets.  Only a robust approach to environmental protections and law making can deliver this for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  But it’s not just government that needs to act; we can also all do our own bit for nature and wildlife including nature-friendly planting in our backyards and choosing peat-free composts for our gardens that protect precious peatland habitats.

As the country’s biggest private landowner we have set ourselves some key targets by 2025.  This includes an ambition to create 25,000 hectares of new priority habitats such as new butterfly habitat in the Heddon valley in Devon to help butterflies like the high brown fritillary and moorland at the Dark Peak in the Peak District to help birds like golden plover. 

We are also championing sustainable farming with an ambition for at least 50 per cent of our farmland to be ‘nature-friendly’, with protected hedgerows, field margins, ponds, woodland and other habitats allowing plants and animals to thrive.”

That range of quotes illustrates many of the perils of collaboration, of which the greatest is watering down of the message. And it shows why the young people interviewed on Channel 4 News came across so well – it’s partly because they were good communicators anyway, it’s partly because there wasn’t much doubt that they cared, and it is quite largely because they weren’t trying to be nice to government, nice to industry and they weren’t paranoid about getting their own organisation’s work into the piece.

If you were looking for passion and clarity then the young people were scoring all the boundaries and winning all the gold medals.

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4 Replies to “Getting the message across?”

  1. Many of them don't want to upset their funders do they? And on the subject of repeating stuff: estimated number of words on the internet: 30 trillion (30,000,000,000,000). Be enough, if they were the right ones you'd think.

  2. Yes, they do illuminate the problem, don't they ?

    No mention - it might upset a lobby or two - of the continuing i tensification of the landuse covering 70% of Britain, farming. Or the doubling of pesticide use in the last decade. And that it is all supported - or in many cases controlled - by public money.

    The difficulties are political, not practical. Who'll bite the bullet ?

    And, very interesting to hear that the NT sees itself as a private landowner, which might explain some of its less creditable actions - I'd always hoped it was something more, but it has certainly been a case of hope over experience.

  3. Same reporting on ongoing decline, but without 'biting the bullet' they risk not be taken seriously as proactive persuaders in terms of pressuring politicians and revealing bad 'industrial' practice(s) which contributes to increasing rate of decline (habitat and species).

    If the public are sufficiently motivated (often by anger or frustration rather than sympathy) they will rally and they won't/can't be silenced by risk of upsetting funders.


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