RSPB Nagshead was one of the nature reserves where I developed my love not only for wildlife but also for the RSPB. Thrillingly, this woodland haven was my closest RSPB reserve as a child. The pied flycatchers and redstarts, and the possibility of adders, were a draw every Spring.
That this reserve, that holds a special place in my heart, and many like it could be at risk of being undermined by fracking for oil and gas saddens me. But Nagshead is just one of nine of the RSPB's reserves at risk from new fracking licences.
New analysis that my colleagues in our data unit have done allows us to show for the first time that in the 159 new licences for onshore oil and gas issued across England this summer, 293 of our best wildlife sites, including nine RSPB reserves are at risk.
Fracking could result in habitat loss and fragmentation, in noise and light disturbances and even chemical pollution, all of which could harm wildlife, watercourses and habitats.
The 293 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) fall at least partially, in some cases entirely, outside any of the other protected areas that Government has promised to protect from fracking under these licences, or outside the Natura 2000 sites that Government is rightly already protecting under the Birds and Habitats Directives by placing conditions on licences.
SSSIs are some of the England’s most special and sensitive wildlife sites.
We're asking Government to stick to a promise they made in February to ban fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites, The Broads and SSSIs.
Right now, we're particularly concerned that SSSIs seem to have fallen off their list, and that they haven’t yet acted to rule out fracking in any of these other sites either.
We find the Government's explanation, that banning fracking in SSSIs would remove too much land for industry, strange. SSSIs make up a tiny percentage of land under the new licences. And only 14% of those SSSIs fall outside another protected area where Government are promising to ban fracking.
So we're talking about just 0.9% of the entire licensing area. This area would have a tiny impact in where industry could go, but could make a huge difference for UK wildlife.
We'd like to see fracking ruled out within all these protected areas. Government can also protect wildlife by banning fracking under them (which in turn could incentivise fracking wells being placed near them). And in some or possibly all cases some sort of buffer zone around protected areas at the surface may be appropriate too.
You can email Amber Rudd here and ask her to keep this promise.
We still have a series of concerns about the regulations around fracking that go beyond excluding protected areas. And we're yet to be convinced that fracking is a wise energy choice when we need to be bringing down our emissions and investing in new low carbon energy.
The new licences only cover England. Licensing in Northern Ireland is devolved, and no licences were awarded in Wales. In Scotland, no licenses were issued as this is due to be devolved to the Scottish Government soon, and the Scottish Government has also imposed a moratorium on fracking until a full public consultation has taken place, where we hope to see full consideration of potential impacts of unconventional gas and oil on habitats and wildlife.
Right now, we're simply asking Amber Rudd to keep a promise she made back in February to ban fracking in our best and most beautiful and sensitive sites for wildlife.
Guest blog by Ela Maczkiewicz, young RSPB supporter
Can our generation really save the planet? The question all comes down to if we actually want to save the planet, and how fashionable or trendy it is to stop climate change. The growing worries of our elders may cast an unbelievably boring shadow over the heads of teenagers and youths, but the real reason we don’t want to listen and can’t be bothered, is because of the way the information is being given to us.
As your average self-obsessed, image conscious teenager, I tend to do what looks good. Meaning that I find the need to do things that also benefit me. Not only this, but I am also a keen geographer. For my A levels I hope to take geography, along with maths, biology and chemistry. I therefor find it of the utmost importance to try and save the planet, and recently my want to do this is showing elsewhere around my generation.
Walking down the cobbled and claustrophobic streets of my native Cambridge, I find there a growing culture of recyclable bags, with huge labels on them, boasting their reusability. Furthermore, even going to a concert, certain merchandise has the label “I used to be a …..” not only do I have to Instagram my new buy, but also show to my friendship network how cool and super eco-friendly I am.
This is the future of preventing climate change.
Hashtags are the new protests and rallies. Photo trends and edits are the updated petitions. Challenge videos are the modernised awareness adverts. The growing age of digital communication and trends aren’t just consuming modern culture and media, but actually important and substantial topics.
Recently Instagram has been recently ablaze with pictures and hashtags all about the decreasing beauty of the Amazon rainforest, the disgusting pollution of our oceans, or the ever-growing murky sky. Internet vloggers, those who have a larger brain span than a tea spoon, have actually left behind their shopping hauls and come onto the topic of recycling and conservation. Even one of my own personal favourite sites, Pinterest, is having an all-time high in DIY recycling and making new things out of the old.
From Harrogate to Heathrow, from County Durham to Cornwall and from Newcastle to Nottingham, internet hipsters are starting the new interconnected revolution and war against climate change. The breath-taking effort of tree huggers worldwide has taken modern society by storm.
With the right filter, the right font type or the right promotion, any message can be successful – it’s now our job to take advantage of this, and utilise this power.
I believe that the main way organisations can start to do this, is through social networking and targeting popular culture. A single beautiful photo or a bright label on a bag can spark off the biggest of trends. The older generation’s growing concerns paired with our generation’s innovative and modern techniques could metamorphose the planet into saving ourselves.
Going back to the question – can our generation save the planet?
There is no doubt that we have the capacity to save the planet, but whether we have the motivation to, is an entirely different matter.