Happy New Year!

I hope you weren’t partying and snogging everyone in sight to celebrate the New Year last night. Somehow I don’t picture the readership of this blog as having many superspreaders in it but, you never know. I had an early night!

I’m looking forward to many things this year and now we are well past the winter solstice the mornings full of Blackbird, Robin and Song Thrush songs are not that far away and I am looking forward to their return like never before.

At around that time this blog will reach its tenth birthday. The first blog published here was this one on 21 April 2011. What were you doing on 21 April 2011? And how have you filled the time in between?

You may have noticed that I have filled that time by setting up Hen Harrier Day events from 2014 onwards, doing some consultancy work for wildlife NGOs, writing some books, doing the occasional bit of campaigning, being a trustee of the World Land Trust, being a co-founder of Wild Justice and writing this blog on an almost daily basis.

When I say almost daily basis, in the last roughly 3500 days this blog has published well over 8000 posts so far. It is a fairly significant gift to the conservation world as not a single word on here has been sponsored or paid for. It’s a gift that has been given gladly – I enjoy writing and I enjoy sounding off about what is going wrong with the natural world and what should be done to put it right. But all good things, and most bad things, must come to an end and so, at the very least, this blog will be taking a long sabbatical starting this spring. What is long? Months and months, but maybe it will be a never-ending break.

How will I fill my time? Don’t you worry, I’ll fill my time.

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20 Replies to “Happy New Year!”

  1. Great stuff Mark and a very Happy New Year to you. Thank you for all your hard work and a brilliant and informative blog.. I presume Wild Justice will continue its fantastic work when you take your long well earned sabbatical in the Spring and that Hen Harrier Day will continue?

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    1. Alan - HNY! Wild Justice takes up quite a lot of my time and will be a beneficiary of me freing up more of my life. And Hen HArrier days have a life of their own now.

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      1. Hen Harrier Days indeed have a life of their own now, though I am sure that Mark and his co-founders will be involved for many years to come. Support and co-ordination are now provided by Hen Harrier Action, and anyone wanting to run or help organise one, or otherwise get involved, should start here: henharrierday.uk/get-involved.

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  2. Happy New Year Mark. I also had an early night, the TV was terrible! Whatever happens this year for the general populace it will probably be an improvement. Wildlife not so sure with crowd of uncaring corrupt, incompetent ne'er do wells in government. Whatever we shall see, to all my fellow commentators on here HNY be safe be good and above all be yourselves.

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  3. Wishing you, and all your supportive contributors, a successful New Year for efforts to improve the condition of our natural world.

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  4. Mark, re your sabbatical - I fully expect there to be very few posts by you on this blog. But if (for example) the MA or CLA start pumping on about their love for Hen Harriers or the virtues of heather burning, etc...I can't imagine you not taking issue with it on here, likewise objecting to NE & their schemes. Anyway, Happy New Year to you and to everybody on here.

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  5. On the evening of that day Lyn and I were doing an evening CBC on RSPB Otmoor Reserve. On the Monday it was a BTO Atlas Survey, Tuesday Otmoor working party for me and the Friday, just as today, Otmoor wardening duty for us both. Oh, and on the Wednesday it was a play at the RSC Stratford for a bit of light relief! But our journey with you starts before that, Mark, and with your indulgence I may elaborate later!

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  6. Sorry to hear that you have decided to bring the curtain down on the blog, Mark. No-one can begrudge you deciding that the time has come to devote your efforts to something else but I am sure that many people will miss it greatly . There will also be plenty who will be glad to see the back of it and that is another measure of its success and value. I am sure you will find other ways to keep on discomfiting those people, as should we all as long as wildlife continues to be persecuted, exploited, displaced and steadily erased from our landscapes.

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    1. Thank you, Jonathan.
      We in the Animal Interfaith Alliance are in agreement with you and we wish everyone a happy, healthy and auspicious new year - there is plenty to occupy us.

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  7. In Blogging for Nature, published April 2011, the Foreword is written by the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, a previous Environment Secretary. I quote "Mark's blog was in parts honest, irascible, demanding, exciting and always readable. If I was ever in any doubt about what people at the Lodge thought I should do next, all I had to do was bring up Mark's blog - if my advisors hadn't already put his latest entry into my red box!" Oh what influence was there in those days. But this takes us back to Mark's first Blog in May 2009 when he and we were in different places. Mark also mentions some of the comments from those years from such as Lazywell, Nightjar, Sooty and my friend and fellow volunteer Redkite (who still comments but under his own name).
    By the time Mark started his current blog I had already been retired for thirteen years. Mark, as the RSPB's Conservation Director had been instrumental in purchasing a small parcel of lowland, highly drained, agricultural land in east Oxon with a view to returning it to lowland wet meadow and reedbeds. Now 23 years later Otmoor is thriving with breeding Bittern, Marsh harrier, otters and spectacular numbers of winter migrants. For the whole of that period I have been involved as a volunteer, wardening, work parties, surveys and making many new friends. On New Year's day 2021 we were entranced by a Ring-tailed Hen harrier. Talking of which we are proud members of the Sodden 570 of the first HHD and have never missed one since. We have marched with Mark on many protests in London and joined him in lobbying MPs in Westminster. The huge debates on grouse shooting and other Conservation issues at Birdfair are memorable, as is the time we had the privilege of sharing an Otmoor walk with him and a talk to our local RSPB group on Inglorious, his book on driven grouse shooting, to complete another memorable day.
    Thanks Mark, we will follow you closely at Wild Justice and the World Land Trust.

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  8. I shall miss the blog - always a stimulating read and brilliant for keeping us alert to developments in the world of conservation and beyond. I hope it is a long sabbatical rather than a final full stop.

    I was editing a book in April 2011. Since then I've been planning a few more and done quite a lot of research. Slippage is the problem - a word popular with the engineers in the organization I used to work for. The longer I delay, the more stuff I find, but as you say, everything must come to an end at some point!

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  9. A quote on the scale of Christine Keeler from 2020 and perhaps a salutary warning for 2021 for all those close to Government NGOs who believe they really must be on their side: from the Grenfell Tower enquiry-

    'You're mistaking me for someone who cares a damn"

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  10. Humph! In trawling for reviews of Dieter Helm's 'Green and Prosperous Land' I was thrilled to stumble on this blog... only to discover it is about to wind up! Ah well... I will follow Wild Justice instead.
    The NHBS bookstore was another life-changing recent discovery. I hope it will be around for longer.
    On the subject of reviews, does anyone know of a detailed critical review of Helm's book? I have discovered only mild criticisms, the severest being from another economist, I think in the FT (can't now look at it again to check details unless I subscribe). I thoroughly enjoyed the book and want to believe everything Helm says, but in trying to cover such a wide area in terms that a layman can understand, he seems to me to throw many hostages to fortune. Not being an economist I'd like to see a well-argued expert view from the other side. If anyone knows of such a thing I'd be grateful to hear.

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    1. Nicky, I had no problem accessing Bronwen Maddox's review. Suggest you search from a friend's computer so it doesn't know you've been there before. I just searched "Financial Times Dieter Helm Green Prosperous". The main criticism there is that his solutions are not very practical.

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  11. Nicky,
    My main criticism of Helm is that he has picked up a lot of his landuse/ conservation knowledge in a rather piecemeal way - critically, he doesn't seem to be aware of the huge drainage campaign from the 50s to 70s - Mark is always pointing out shifting baselines and this is a prime example, for most people it's just too long ago.

    On the other hand, his general argument is spot on. One of the ways big conservation has gone wrong is it's blanking of natural capital thinking, and with it the Natural Capital Committee. For me, with a career dominated by simplistic hard product (timber, wheat, whatever) based economics Dieter and cos thinking is a wonderful release - and only just in time. There really is more to land than what we can squeeze out of it for instant profit and while traditional conservationists stack up ever huger bills for what we need to do, read Dieter and you can start to understand how solving apparently intractable problems - like flooding - by green measures can actually save, not spend money.
    The trouble is I don't think most people believe the scale is attainable - it is - and they are locked in the 70 year old and outdated idea that every square inch has to be farmed or we'll starve. Actually, it's the opposite - if we carry on farming the way we are doing it today there really are big risks. Dieter's arguments are sense and they can work in reality.

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  12. Well done Mark, I think you giving up the blog is probably a natural progression and your time will be more valuable in things you have moved onto.
    Will always admire your work ethic and ability to mix with all people and your tolerance.
    Really great knowing you and Rosemary and left me with find memories.
    Good luck with all your present and future projects.

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  13. Happy New Year to you and yours too, Mark. Your blog has been a near-daily must-read for a few years now, so will be terribly missed! It's a place where you know you'll read proven facts about all the important news re our beleaguered wildlife, so many thanks - hasta la vista!

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