The end of the year is nigh

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Martin Harper's blog

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

The end of the year is nigh

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Barring an environmental catastrophe (which really would be a bad way to end the year), this will be my last post of 2011. 

It has been quite a year.   I have a fabulous new job which allows me to support the breadth of the RSPB's conservation work.  And I get to visit fabulous RSPB reserves like Abernethy, Bempton Cliffs and Dove Stone.  That can't be bad.

2011 was the year that the coalition government began to outline its ambitions for the natural world through the Natural Environment White Paper and English Biodiversity Strategy.  Both of these documents were informed by the groundbreaking National Ecosystem Assessment which provided compelling arguments for better investment in nature. 

Alas the year has also thrown up a whole load of new challenges: continued decline in farmland and woodland birds, threats to EU funding for wildlife-friendly farming, the economic growth imperative in danger of eclipsing environmental protection (through new planning proposals and reviews of environmental regulation), and, sadly, the inadequacy of the global response to tackling climate change.

Throughout this period, I have tried to give you an insight into the work of the RSPB and our views on the topics of the day.  Below, in traditional end of year fashion, is my top 10 posts of the year (in chronological order). 

I hope you enjoy my mini review of the year.  I look forward to picking up the story (and the fight) in the new year.  Until then, have a peaceful and relaxing Christmas.

Martin's Top Ten Blogs of 2011

1. Breathless over nature: a eulogy to the UK National Ecosystem Assessment.

2. Don't cut the life from the countryside - the sequel">Don't cut the life from the countryside - the sequel: highlighting the threats to EU funding for wildlife-friendly farming

3. The selfish gene at work within Whitehall: describing how some government departments might undermine Defra's Natural Environment White Paper ambitions

4. New planning policy is a backwards step for nature: our initial response the now infamous consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework

5. Conkers and bottle tops: reminiscing about the decline of full fat milk

6. 7 Billion reasons to rethink our economy: acknowledging the impact of global population on nature and outlining our proposed response

7. In search of happiness: reflecting on the Government's plan to establish a well-being index

8. How green is the government? 29 critical friends have their say: the NGO report on Government's ambitions to be the greenest ever

9. The Habitats Regulations ; the case for the defence: dealing with the consequences of the Chancellor's autumn economic statement

10. A sad day for badgers and farmers: responding to the Government's decision to proceed with a badger cull

Did I miss any of your favourites? What would you like to hear more about in 2012?

It would be great to hear  your views.

  • Sooty - I will check what we are planning to do to replace Paul.  Will get back to you soon...

  • Hi Martin,seems a sad time for Arne visitors as Paul Morton has left,he was similar to a warden  although official title may have been information officer.Are you able to tell us if he will be replaced like for like or what the RSPB has in mind.Would certainly be disappointing to see it not carry on  the great work that has improved the reserve for visitors over the last two years.We have been so lucky with the enthusiasm of Paul and Rob which obviously transferred to all the team.

  • Petercrispins comments of ageism exactly the same as racism, not only that they are inaccurate as each generation has always had some hard workers who get what they want and some who will not work hard who moan that they should have more and today's generation no different as there are lots getting on in life.Previous generations put more emphasis on saving for houses and there were not all the modern day emphasis on spending on restaurants and all these essential as they see it electrical devices and mobiles.How dare someone criticise the RSPB that it is ageist

    If he had criticised it as racist a very similar rant he would have been in serious trouble.

  • Thank you for this, Peter, but I have to say that I do not recognise the RSPB position that you portray.  I am not sure that the headline writers did us any favours at the weekend.

    The RSPB recognises that the need for more housing, particularly affordable housing, is a pressing social concern that must be addressed by the planning system. However, there is a profound tension between delivering ever-increasing amounts of housing, and safeguarding finite environmental capacity – which is itself, another fundamental responsibility of the planning system.

    A strategic, plan-led system can mediate these concerns by delivering housing (particularly affordable, through specific policies), in the most sustainable locations, whilst protecting environmentally sensitive areas. An effective plan-led system must, however, be predicated on the fact that planning authorities can, where necessary, refuse development that sits outside that which is planned for, where it would not constitute sustainable development (as defined by an appropriate definition).

  • Hi Martin,

                       I spotted a piece with you quoted in the Grauniad.

                    The deep blue/green alliance of over 50's is gearing up again to prevent house building I would state that I find this aspect of the National Trust/RSPB alliance deeply reprehensible and morally unpalateable. The well off and housed defending the inheritance that they were bequeathed by Macmillan and Baldwin at the expense of the next generation. One of the principle legacies of the rise of the "Green" movement has been a generation or two that has not built enough houses; it is the tyranny of the old over the young; a tyranny of the bourgoisie.

                       I would refer you to the IPPR report by Matt Griffiths 'Priced Out' on the role of Buy to Let acquisition as one of the principle benefactors of the release of credit by Labour; this broke the demutualised Northern Rock and the Halifax. These landlords are now charging high rents while benefitting from low interest rates from the crash that their speculation generated; they are speculating and driving rents up on housing shortage. They receive 20 billion subisdy from housing benefit annually. This was the substantial domestic driver in the banking collapse see Griffiths IPPR.

                       This has been driven by shortage of housing and shortage of land release; partly by the hoarding of house builders. Land banks that should be referred to the OFT as acting against the national interest and particularly with regard to self build. There should be a new Fair Rent Act to protect tenants against profiteering landlords. Will the RSPB support the proposition that land release should go direct to land/housing self build co-ops for young people ? Not developers !

                        I support any Prime Minister that will care to step into the shoes of Harold Macmillan and build houses. I hope the RSPB will support the proposition that over the next generation and a half starter housing will be available at 3x median wage ie 75,000 as a necessary part of rebalancing the economy and will help identify adequate sites to enable a large scale build that will afford the next generation the security that the ageing RSPB membership was bequeathed.

                        I challenge the RSPB that it is ageist; defending the propertied interests of its membership.