Why Saturday's Walk for Wildlife matters

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I’ve been the RSPB’s Conservation Director since May 2011. As I settle into the job, I’ll be blogging on all the big conservation topics and providing an inside view of our conservation projects. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel inspired to join in t

Why Saturday's Walk for Wildlife matters

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When we conceived the first State of Nature report in 2013, we wanted to create a common evidence base about about what was happening to our wildlife in the UK and on the 14 UK Overseas Territories.  Our hope was that this would unite the sector to provide a shared message to politicians and other decision-makers to stimulate action.

With the 2013 and 2016 reports, compiled mainly thanks to the dedication of thousands of volunteer naturalists, I think we succeeded in our first objective: the headline statistics have been used by loads of different organisations and individuals and are now central to nature conservation conversation across the UK. 

Ben Andrew's picture of a turtle dove - our fast declining migratory bird (rspb-images.com)

But has the action followed?

The glass half-full view would be that...

...we have secured positive public commitments from governments such as (in England) the ambition to restore nature in a generation and the desire to ensure environmental protection is the centrepiece of the future agriculture subsidy system with the prospect of new legislation (including an Environment Bill) or for the promise of 4 million square kilometres of marine protected areas around UK Overseas Territories

The glass half-empty view would be that...

...action on the ground has yet to match these words.  Daft development proposals on protected sites for a golf course in East Sutherland, houses in Kent and motorway relief road on the Gwent Levels have yet to be kicked into touch.  We have had to fight to keep what we already have (through the defence of the nature directives and legal challenges).

...funding for nature conservation has collapsed over the past decade and there are no current plans to replace the £428 million that will be lost when we leave the European Union.

...illegal killing of wildlife (such as birds of prey) continues

...the nation's most important wildlife sites are not being adequately monitored and of those that have been assessed, just a third are in favourable condition.  Just 4% of UK Overseas Territories on land are protected

...we have yet to find a way to reduce the ecological footprint as demonstrated by the risk to tropical deforestation posed by UK consumption of commodities such as palm oil, beef and cocoa

It is easy to conclude that our current path of economic development continues to come at the expense of the natural world.

And that's why Chris Packham's Walk for Wildlife on Saturday 22 September matters.

We need to demonstrate to politicians that people care about wildlife and that our current path is just not good enough.  We need a new approach that grows our prosperity and restores the natural world.  This starts with strong environment legislation but must be backed up by resources and institutions that enforce the laws and holds government to account for its actions.

We need to create an build an unstoppable movement for change. People provide the space for politicians to act locally, nationally and globally so we need to harness the public passion for nature and turn it into political pressure. It is our job, anywhere in the world, to make it desirable for politicians to act for nature and to raise the cost of political failure.

So, this Saturday, come to London, show you care and take part in the Walk for Wildlife.

  • Thanks Martin. Now all you need to do is to selectively put other things on the front page, get wardens to put up posters, add a section for supported campaigns with info in Nature's home, etc etc. and I and some us here will be a lot happier, but probably not all. :)

  • It's now on the frontpage of our website thanks to your chivvying, Mr Ibis...

  • Hi there, the email went to the 390,000 supporters that subscribe to our enewsletter.

  • 'First, it's worth remembering that it is not 'our' walk.  That said, we do support the spirit of the walk and have done so through social media, through emailing our supporters and through actively encouraging other partners/networks to promote it.'

    Martin, it's everybody's walk.  I must also ask where the supporter email is, as I haven't had one.  Presumably members are supporters?

  • Please can you tell me when the email was sent out about the walk? I've opted to receive such mailings but I cannot find any mention of the walk. The last mailing I got was for the Turtle Dove Appeal.

  • Thanks Martin. My comments below were stimulated by a conversation on another forum. There were several criticisms of the RSPB because of lack of support for The Walk with threats of resignations and from non-members. People were unable to find mention on the RSPB Home pages. I put a link to your guest blog with Chris Packham which I pointed out took me less than 30 secs to find. RSPB may not be the main mover but Chris is Vice-president and I believe we could have been more pro-active in support. Looking forward to seeing you there Martin.

  • Just a quick comment on what we've been doing to promote this...

    First, it's worth remembering that it is not 'our' walk.  That said, we do support the spirit of the walk and have done so through social media, through emailing our supporters and through actively encouraging other partners/networks to promote it.

    We shall see what we can do in terms of further promotion in the run up to the day including looking at web presence.  

    And yes, we are exploring new ways to try to have campaigning impact - which can be but is not always about numbers of people signing pledges.  We are  looking at getting deeper and more personal commitments.  

    Thanks for the challenge!

    Best wishes,


  • In the strange post-truth world we seem to live in now there is one crucial point that never seems to be discussed: under the last Labour Government things were actually getting better - one example was the very successful, Government led campaign to bring SSSIs into favourable condition. All of that stopped dead in 2010, with nature (and especially Natural England) one of the victims of George Osborne's contrived 'austerity', designed mainly to cut expenditure on all sorts of things the Conservatives didn't like - the poor, 'Green Crap' etc. The vast majority of positive initiatives - especially the 25 year plan - have been contrived to ensure there is talking but no action during this Parliament. However, what happens to agriculture dwarfs everything else and it is vital to remember that alongside nature there are immediate issues politician regardless of party have to address - such as flooding and other impacts of climate change.

  • I'm happy at this minor bit of campaigning. The RSPB was founded on strong campaigning. I'm not convinced that the RSPB is campaigning effectively on this or in fact on any matter. Buck up your ideas as to how to campaign effectively, please. I can't talk. I have only obtained 274 signatures 3/4 the way through the petition period. I have an excuse. I admit I'm rubbish at such things, but my petition can still succeed. The RSPB have no such excuse, with 1 million members who could be mobilised You could be so much more effective

  • Just checked the RSPB Home page. No mention found of The People's Walk for Wildlife. Why not, more.support needed by the RSPB. Please!

  • The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway route chosen without an environmental impact assessment being carried out empties the glass still more.