RSPB Green Recovery Plan

Yesterday the RSPB launched this document with a rather ambitious title.

In 15 pages, which amount to six and a half pages of text, the RSPB sets out its green recovery plan. As a bunch of ideas they are very much the right ideas. As a plan, it’s hardly a plan. As a report, it’s not really a report. As a convincing narrative to anyone not already convinced, it lacks a compelling argument. As a good read it falls too often into the language that conservationists use in conversation with each other and yet no normal person ever says.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the RSPB to produce something like this, for external and internal reasons. This document sets things in a global context, sets out some UK principles and then dives into England-only solutions which will seem a bit odd to many readers, particularly if they don’t live in England. Such are the difficulties of facing two interlinked global crises, nature loss and climate change, but dealing with them in a small corner of the world where much of the relevant policy is fully devolved to national governments, and where the UK has stepped outside a multinational group of nations. It’s not easy.

It’s also not easy to write a document which maintains a working relationship with government, the Westminster mostly-England government, when that government is dismantling environmental protection. A major difficulty, much more severe than in the past, is that government says many of the right things but does hardly any of the right things. And therefore, although in theory setting another set of targets for a decade in the future is the right thing to do, if you can’t trust the government to stick to them (even if you can get them set) is the recipe for another wasted decade. Daniel Zeichner had it right yesterday when he said that government says the right things but can we trust them? The answer to that is ‘no!’ – it’s all piffle-Pfeffel.

So why maintain such a cosy relationship with government ministers who fail to deliver? Yesterday’s webinar with Rebecca Pow was a low point – a minister out of her depth in the shallow end. The smiling, trying to be charming, minister is the enemy of what the RSPB wants to achieve, and which my membership has paid them to strive for. This government is harming the natural world and it intends to allow more harm to happen. Keeping in with these people when they don’t deliver just shows how weak you are, and how dependent on the crumbs of funding and recognition they scatter around. Minister Pow will be on a Dragons Den panel with the RSPB at the virtual Conservative Conference on Sunday so it would have been a bit difficult for Beccy Speight to ‘Paxman’ her and get an answer to some questions yesterday.

The RSPB is far too nice to government, perhaps from habit. I fear it is confusing access with influence. In the olden days then having a minister at your events was a badge of influence. It showed that you had clout but that currency is now much devalued. It’s just a sticker these days that peels off and blows away in the wind straight after the event.

And what is the cover image of the report or plan supposed to convey? It seems to show us that people are quite happy with a lack of wildlife provided they have a patch of grass to sit upon while the cranes in the City of London build the existing system higher and higher.

I begin to crave a 40-page report with no images (especially not of Kingfishers and Bank Voles) and closely-typed paragraphs that set out a case and carry an argument through to a conclusion. The RSPB is now the only wildlife NGO that could attempt such a thing for nature conservation. The RSPB is still the best of the bunch, by far. Other NGOs left intellectual rigour behind many years ago. But this type of document is a throw-away thing rather than anything to which one would return. It will have no impact on government because the Westminster government does not fear the consequences of going against the NGOs with their 8 million members.


13 Replies to “RSPB Green Recovery Plan”

  1. A very good assessment Mark. To some extent the RSPB is between a rock and a hard place. If they really launch into this Westminster Government which is what should happen then they risk loosing what crumbs may fall from from the Governments table. In addition, unfortunately the Government could make life very difficult for the RSPB by excluding them on many issues. (They have destroyed
    Natural England). So it is mostly a game of bluff and counter bluff.
    There is no doubt in my mind that the much more productive routes are for the RSPB to lobby and try to work with the provincial Governments who are much more reasonable.
    Also, we must not forget the UK’s Overseas territories where in fact there are many more species and habitats at risk than in the U.K. ( if that is possible). The RSPB is helping to do a lot of good work in these Territories where nature in many cases is in desperate need and where a £1 spent often goes much further than here in the UK .
    So, while sometimes we may feel a bit frustrated with the RSPB, without them nature would be facing catastrophe. The bottom line is they are a great organisation and a bulwark against Governments who regard nature as getting in their way.

    1. The economist was excellent and passionate. He’s someone who should be listened to by governments, as was the ardent young man. Your comments on what amounts to the withdrawal of our rights to act and speak for nature under this government were prescient.

  2. It’s hard to disagree with your assessment, Mark. No-one could now doubt this govt has zero interest in ameliorating climate breakdown, and even less in mitigating species extinctions. I suspect the majority of RSPB staff are well aware of this.
    We are currently seeing David Attenborough getting more overtly ‘political’ about Planet Earth. Perhaps with a document like this, the RSPB is really addressing a much wider audience – and also aiming to shift the consciousness of its membership in ‘Middle England’ to take a more politicised view?

    Ever optimistic….!

  3. Typical Avery slags off anything to do with the tories be it reports like this as it does not attack the Conservative government enough or if it is to undrrmine the hen harrier brood mgt. project as it does not fit his and packhams hidden socialist agenda.

    1. Mike – my socialist agenda is not hidden, but I am fair-minded enough to welcome any positive conservation move wherever it comes from, and to criticise any feebleness, wherever it comes from.

    2. I am afraid that your attempts to suggest that those who campaign to end the persecution of hen harriers that is associated with grouse shooting are actually motivated by a ‘hidden socialist agenda’, class envy or other such terms simply do not hold water Mike. No-one here is campaigning to ban polo, the opera at Glyndebourne or other events and pastimes traditionally associated with the very wealthy and well-connected. Equally, whenever a bird of prey is killed by a pigeon fancier (a sport that has a strong working class following) there is rapid and unequivocal condemnation here, on RPUK and from all of the many people who are sick of seeing the legally protection theoretically accorded to our birds of prey completely disregarded with more or less total impunity by a minority of people placing their selfish interests above all else.

      The simple facts are that several species of raptor are not safe on the grouse moors because the shoot managers cannot/will not tolerate their presence. Despite years of the shooting organisations piously insisting how much they deplore the persecution it continues inexorably. The Hen Harrier brood management project is a sham that does not resolve the actual problem facing hen harriers (i.e. illegal killing by gamekeepers) but allows the grouse shooting industry to pretend it is doing something whilst rewarding them with the removal of harriers from their moors. It is not very different from telling a thief that if he refrains from throwing a brick through the jewellers window he will be given the jewels all wrapped up in a presentation box and then boasting that you have prevented a crime!

      Objecting to a failure to uphold and respect the law that has been going on for years is not a specifically ‘socialist’ point of view but one that supporters of any respectable political party should be able to get behind. Indeed the Tory party has always presented itself as the party of law and order. A shame therefore that they seem to be so ready to look the other way as far as wildlife crime in the uplands is concerned.

      1. Jonathan – for the record, although I have nevr been to Glyndeborne, I am a great fan of opera and do not want to see it banned, even under the socialist regime that I clearly seek. Polo? I prefer the mints.

    3. Credit where credit’s due. Alt Wrong Mike did manage to include a full stop at the end of his latest obsessive rant!

  4. “… it falls too often into the language that conservationists use … and yet no normal person ever says”

    It is not clear who is the intended audience. Is it something to do with the Untied Nations? Any road up, it’s not me. I couldn’t get past the Introduction.

    Word-Salad, albeit World-Leading

  5. I think such reports must help ‘get the message over’… but how many people even know about this report, and how many will read it, or have access to Mark’s blogs for a precis that could encourage deeper investigation…?
    I joined the RSPB – thinking it was ‘just birdwatching’ (I do like birds!) – then a local Natural History Group, the SWT and WWT… I had no idea of the wider work done by the RSPB!

    My Nature ‘discovery trail’ started years ago when (used to enthusing about brilliant Chris Packham TV nature programmes), I encountered with sheer delight Chris off-screen ‘shouting above the noise’ for wildlife!! Which lead in due course to Avery Blogs and (WOW!!) Raptor Persecution with its wealth of information and links for further research into so many ills. Then of course Wild Justice… actually challenging the laws so often ignored or misinterpreted.

    I bombard friends with info. and facts and forward links by e-mail to those not on social media (There are lots!). They are amazed, often angry and nearly always willing to sign, complain, write to MPs… they care, they just didn’t know!

    The RSPB does a great job, but somehow more people need to know about it! Maybe this year’s on-line AGM will attract more members… Maybe Covid-19 and Climate Change (becoming more ‘acceptable’ for the media to talk about at last!) will draw people closer to nature, enthuse them to ask questions and get up and do something.

  6. The RSPB report looks fine to me! It’s certainly not the problem.


    All necessary to halt biodiversity decline but just a few years ago all of these were beyond the ambitions of the RSPB.

    Habitat corridors still missing though!

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