This blog (8) – news, views and action

For a decade this blog has brought you news, views and action daily. Tomorrow there will no new post, but I will post at weekends in a much reduced, shall we say streamlined, manner. On 21 October I’ll tell you what happens next…

News: news can be defined as ‘interesting stuff that happened recently’ – that’s my definition. I have brought you news on this blog – I’ve decided what is interesting and left it up to you to choose whether reading posts here was interesting enough for you. Most normal people would find news of nature conservation and the state of nature as being a bit dull, but that’s what I’m interested in (along with a few other things).

It’s up to you whether you think I have done a good job but before moving on I’ll just point out that it is a bit odd that this has become a fairly important source of news for quite a lot of people interested in wildlife and the environment. Surely you should not be relying on a voluntary (ie completely unpaid) newsfeed from an individual when there are massive corporations and organisations who bring you news?

The conventional media are very poor on environmental news – maybe better on climate change news than the natural environment? Maybe, but not much. BBC coverage of conservation is dire, and is far poorer than it used to be when this blog was born ten years ago. Farming Today has got a bit better recently, but that doesn’t mean it’s good, it has a very small audience, and some of its presenters seem to think that their job is to diminish the importance nature in the news whilst swallowing any old nonsense from the vested interests of farming and shooting. Today‘s coverage of wildlife conservation is now simply farcical, and is way below the journalistic standards of yesteryear. Countryfile is pretty much hopeless but occasionally appears to feel guilty about being so awful and produces a half-decent one third of a programme. Springwatch etc are not news programmes. And the general coverage of these issues on the BBC news is embarrassingly poor.

But what of the print media? Not much use really. The Telegraph‘s coverage is far too often a cut-and-paste job of a government press release or statement accompanied by an unreliable comment from a vested interest. Almost all journalistic questioning and investigation has disappeared to be replaced with lazy repetition of partial views as if they were the truth. The Times isn’t quite so bad, but its coverage of rural issues is terrible now. The Mail is like the Telegraph but worse, with shorter words. The Mirror has done some good things, but mixes up nature with pets and farm animals. The Guardian isn’t bad, with Patrick Barkham and Phoebe Weston leading the way, and with Damian Carrington as a safe pair of hands, but the Guardian really does seem to think that all the interesting nature issues are abroad.

Wildlife NGOs only tell you the news that they want you to hear – and that is the news about themselves and how great they are – even when they aren’t. Yesterday’s press release from the RSPB (this one) did plumb some new depths. The RSPB may not like it, but its membership looks very much like the readership of this blog – they can cope with reality.

There really might be a niche for a daily environmental newsletter concentrating on UK wildlife and nature issues, but it would take some setting up.

So, actually, conservation news is surprisingly hard to find.

Views: this blog, daily for a decade, has provided views too. They’ve been my views. My views on the latest singles (see here), or on the best way to cook, or many, many other subjects are pretty worthless, or at least no more valuable that anybody else’s views, but I think I can claim to have greater insight into what is happening in nature conservation and why it is happening, and where it will lead, than most people. I’m pretty sure about that, although it has always been up to you to decide for yourself.

Where else could you get that commentary? Either from vested interests or from the ignorant? There are precious few commentators on such issues that have a significant output of words. George Monbiot is a consistent star, and there are a few others, but not that many. The growing number of books on nature conservation help to fill the gaps in a useful way. But this blog has had the great advantage of being entirely independent of any group or organisation. This blog has stood up for nature, and has been prepared to criticise those who claim that they are doing the standing up whether they be government, agency or charity.

The views of so-called wildlife organisations from the GWCT to, I’m afraid, WWF-UK seem pretty much corporate nonsense. What do wildlife NGOs actually believe in? It’s terribly difficult to tell from what they say. Imagine a person about whom you said that – it would have to be a politician, and one of the least admirable of the crop.

Action: this has been a campaigning blog from the start. And if you are eager for change and know what change you want, and know how to get it, then life is quite straight forward; you say what’s happening (the news), you say why it’s bad (or good)(the views), and then you say what people can do to make it better (action). It’s as simple as that. It’s as simple as that if you know what’s happening, whether it’s good or bad, and how to get more or less of it.

This blog has been a campaigning blog and, please note, it has not just promoted its own campaigns, though it has done that too. This blog has spotted good causes and blown wind into their sails – sometimes to great effect and sometimes not – but that’s life. This blog has asked its readers to empty their pockets, sign petitions, go on marches, attend Hen Harrier Days and write to politicians. It has not sat still wringing its hands, it has stood up for nature and pointed in what it, I, thought was the right direction. And that has included supporting in 2013/14 the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust campaign to protect the Sanctuary LNR (see here for example), Catfield Fen (see here), Marine Protected Areas in UK Overseas Territories and closer to home (see here), Chrissie Harper’s and John Armitage’s e-petitions on vicarious liability and licensing of grouse shooting back in 2012-14 (see here), vultures and diclofenac (see here), protecting Fineshade and other woods from Forest Holidays (see here), banning whaling in Iceland (see here) and, actually, simply loads of others. My point is, this blog has helped others, not just ploughed its own furrow. When have you seen a major NGO ask you to help someone else to save nature? This blog has supported individuals and organisations in cases where I thought that such help would make a difference. That has been standing up for nature.

And I’ve started some campaigns of my own – most notably that to ban driven grouse shooting – more on that a bit later.

I am genuinely pleased with the difference that this blog has made. Through influencing its readers, including politicians, journalists, industry and wildlife NGOs, the world has changed. The readers of this blog have been a force for change through their financial, political and moral support for wildlife. You tell me that this blog has fired you up, made you better informed and given you the confidence to take action. I couldn’t want for anything more.

Thank you to everyone for making a difference.

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14 Replies to “This blog (8) – news, views and action”

  1. Mark,
    Thanks for all you have done and all you do. Enjoy the break!
    If you decide to create a "daily environmental newsletter concentrating on UK wildlife and nature issues" I would support it as a subscriber and a backer.

  2. As I sit writing this, for some reason I have The Doors song 'The End' going around my head, whilst a few people would say the song is about death, I have always thought it's more about regeneration, so a bit like this blog I suppose. I have no idea how you've managed to continue this blog over ten years with such dedication, but you have and what a difference it's made to the natural world, it's going to take some getting use to not having your or your guests blogs to read every day, but perhaps the weekends are going to be even more special now. Well, when all's said and done, don't be a stranger Mark, it's been a hell of a journey. Hope you'll forgive me for bringing a little bit of Rock into the blog right at 'The End' (My Beautiful Friend).

  3. This blog has certainly made a difference to my life, that’s for sure.
    A friend asked me if I knew of the blog eight years ago. I didn’t but the name was familiar. I was hooked from my first look.
    The first thing I was taught was that the various NGOs I had trusted and given money to over many years were not doing the job I thought they did, or should be doing. Why am I learning stuff on here and not from them?
    But I did learn. I did write to my MP (who has now stopped responding!) I did go to HH days, go on marches, sign petitions and informed(annoyed) friends.
    But one of the things I will miss most is the sense of community. Like minded people working to help nature.
    A good example of this came only last week. Mark promoted the Bamff project. These were land owners asking for money. While I can dig deep sometimes, I just had questions over this that I couldn’t find answers to on their site.
    Carole voiced my concerns, Jonathan made some valid points and Les gave the background in a personal way. And I gave.

    For a blog to bring together people in this way for the common good is no mean feat. I will miss that.
    I’m not holding my breath for 21st October. Running this blog for 10 years must have been draining and time consuming in a way that is unknown to most of us. Now with WJ and WLT demanding more time, I think the break will be permanent. I will look forward to the weekend blogs and be most grateful for them.

    Mark, thank you. You’ve made a difference to a lot to people.

  4. I think we have to thank you enormously Mark for 10 years of interest, stimulation and urging to action all of us who have read this blog and often acted upon suggested actions. It has been fun, informative and hopefully for a whole host of reasons worthwhile. I know I have learnt a huge amount about all sorts of stuff to do with wildlife, our environment, in action and action of our NGOs and the politics involved in all. You have I'm sure made a whole host of friends and supporters, the other side of that coin is the enemies who have also been made or have hardened their views. I find it disappointing that some of them will no longer enter the debate through the blog comments. If this is the end ( a song I also like!) thank you for your commitment, Hen Harrier days and the less good state that DGS finds itself in and a lots of things I have probably forgotten. My old MP in Harrogate got to know my letters well and the new one here in Wales is I think getting the gist, sadly both Tories with a kowtowing attitude to party policy and no evidence of an independent mind. I hope the blog comes back but will totally understand if it doesn't. Once again thank you for the blog and all you have done to help both us and more importantly our beleaguered natural world.

  5. Thanks, Paul and Paul - I echo all you say and thank Mark for his excellent work, which I too shall very much miss.

    We in Animal Interfaith Alliance are not conservationists, but we have supported, and always will, campaigns that work to protect and respect all our fellow creatures.

    Very best wishes to everyone.

  6. Unique, wonderful blog and a truly remarkable effort Mark.
    Weekends notwithstanding, it will be sorely missed by thousands more than will find time to put a comment here.....
    All the very best for your future and thanks SO much.

  7. After looking at any new emails, this blog has been, pretty much, my first point of call for the last 10 years and I shall miss it enormously.
    Thank you sincerely for all your time, trouble and diligence over the years!
    I comment rarely but normally read all the comments and shall miss those too.
    Perhaps you will pop up on Ruth's RP blog (my second port of call each morning) occasionally with a guest blog or comment?
    There is Twitter of course where you are quite active and hopefully that will remain the case.

    Thank you
    P.S. Is Mr. White alive and well and will we ever get to know the identity - I miss him/her too!

  8. I see with a smile that someone has taken the time and effort to 'dislike' your contemplative round-up of a post Mark. In a funny way, this is itself a badge of honour, reflecting what you have achieved with the blog, and underlining what you say about the absence of other sources of up to the minute conservation news and comment. Even if some disagree (or worse) with everything you stand for, the compulsion to come here rather than elsewhere to get the latest is clearly still too much to resist. And you have shown a level of openness, patience and tolerance to opposing views that I suspect many would find difficult to emulate. Bravo and glad you'll be keeping it on a slow boil.

  9. Thank you Mark for all you have done and written. It has always been interesting, informative and educational. Well done you! Have a good break. I hope you return!

  10. Your first Blog in May 2009, still at the RSPB says, 'there's plenty to write about!' Well you got that right and I doubt I've missed more than a handful since. A first call every morning soon sfter 6.00am. Not just the blog, we have been on the same protest marches, lobbied our MPs and been to all Hen harrier days and many RSPB AGMs. Your contribution to conservation is huge and vital and we will continue to follow all you do in future.

    Best wishes, Richard and Lyn.


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