Saving nature is a marathon not a sprint

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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

Saving nature is a marathon not a sprint

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Guest post by our Chief Executive, Mike Clarke.

For me, the last few months have been hugely significant.

In May, we published the State of Nature report along with 24 other conservation organisations. This report brought home the reality that nature is in trouble – year by year there are fewer flowers, fewer insects and fewer birds. In fact, there are around 44 million less breeding birds since the late 1960s.

Wildlife faces common problems and needs common solutions - measures such as EU Common Agricultural Policy reform, a strong planning system, laws for environmental protection, and economic policies that properly reflect the true value of nature in the wealth of our nation. But, we are failing to see governments take the necessary action.

The global scale of the problem became all the more evident in June with the launch of the State of the World’s Birds. Birds are an integral part of the web of life, and are very visible indicators for biodiversity. The pressure human activity is now placing on species, habitats and sites means that 1 in 8 of all bird species are now considered globally threatened with extinction.

BirdLife International is the world’s largest partnership of civil society organisations for nature conservation, with over 13 million supporters, united in a shared global strategy.

Returning from the BirdLife World Congress in Canada, I came away with a powerful impression that the world is turning. The environmental movement is struggling to recognise the scale of change - and that we simply can’t just carry on as we are.

Over the next few decades, the pressures on nature are going to intensify, driven by short term economics and a longer term inability of human society to live within the means of our fragile planet. We need more support than we have been able to command so far. We need more people to care. We need their voice to be heard by governments and decision makers.

Sometimes, it can seem that the scale of the problem is impossibly large; Or that people have lost faith in politicians to deliver the solutions that nature needs.

The RSPB has a knack of capturing the spirit of the age and challenging the status quo. The combination of our sound science and a passionate movement of people is a potent force to fight for nature. We need to work together (State of Nature was just the start) and that’s where Giving Nature a Home comes in.

What we’re doing now and over the next few years is a small contribution, but organisations across the planet are watching. And what are we doing? We’ve believing in ourselves and trusting that we really can make a difference.

Saving nature is a marathon not a sprint, this is just the beginning, and growing public support for nature is the clearest and most powerful way to meet the biggest challenge our natural world has faced.The belief that a person can make a difference is at the heart of hope. By taking action, you can be part of a global movement of over 13 million people across more than 120 countries. If you’re already giving nature a home – thank you! Do visit our website if you want to find out more.

What do you consider are the biggest challenges nature conservation faces at the moment?

photo credits: Heath fritillary by Jackie Cooper (, Dartford warbler by Ben Hall (

  • "What do you consider are the biggest challenges nature conservation faces at the moment?"


    Its one thing to play "ain't it awful" amongst dare I suggest the "ooohh-arhhh" nature lovers on these pages -  quite another to motivate the masses of people that will be needed to make a real difference.

    The RSPB has been brilliant in its traditional conservation battle and has now made a welcome start in the push to "win the war" with the TV ad (despite some adverse nitpicking comment elsewhere). More and more of the same please!

    The vast majority of people are either in denial (preferring business as usual), apathetic (believing nothing can be done) or totally in the dark! Keyboard warriors like myself are starting to wonder what this game is really all about - I stopped my funding for all NGOs such as the RSPB after I ran into the attitudes expressed by collegues within a local ornithological society (of which I'm no longer a member!!). I figured if that is typical then the money I invested over 40 years was a complete waste!

    As another example - a staffer at Forum for the Future wrote to me and commented about  "The crushing weight of established orthodoxies with regard to envirironmental issues". That statement still exasperates me because if the future of mankind (for that is what we are actually talking about) really is at stake then they'd surely triple their efforts to bring the issues to the top of the agenda. Do you see them arguing the case on TV? No - you have to go digging on t'internet to find out about the great but limited work they are doing with business. Do they (Forum and others such as the Green Party!!!!) not recognise that with the current state of play globally in economic, societal and ecological terms they'll never have a better background against which to present their economic alternatives to the globalised capitalism that is apparently leading us to the brink?