My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
Just in case you were busy looking at wildlife over the Easter weekend, here is the letter that was sent to the Prime Minister regarding the UK Government's environmental commitments. It received media coverage here, here and here. This was triggered by newspaper reports based on leaked documents that suggested that trade and growth would be prioritised at the expense of efforts to tackle global warming and the illegal trade in wildlife.
Dear Prime Minister,
We are alarmed by recent media reports suggesting that the UK's commitments to tackling climate change and ending the illegal wildlife trade could be watered down to secure post-Brexit trade deals.
The UK Government has repeatedly promised to leave the environment in a better state for future generations, and the majority of Conservative voters support maintaining environmental protections.
We are already seeing the effects of climate change in the UK and globally, especially on the world’s poorest people. Many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia are wildlife-rich and among those on the front line of climate change, and want to develop their economies sustainably. In the UK, the State of Nature report showed that more than half of our wildlife is in decline.
To be a great, global trading nation, the UK must deliver on its promises for the environment and the climate and honour our international commitments. In doing so we will help build a greener, better and more prosperous future for everyone, rather than driving an environmental race to the bottom.
Bishop Richard Chartres
Sir Ian Cheshire
Graeme Le Saux
Stephen Poliakoff CBE
Lord Stuart Rose
Sir Crispin Tickell GCMG KCVO
Andrew Triggs Hodge OBE
Lord Adair Turner
Tanya Steele, Chief Executive, WWF
Will Travers OBE, President, Born Free Foundation
Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD
Paul Valentin, International Director, Christian Aid
Oliver Smith, Chief Executive, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Craig Bennett, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace
Tamsin Cooper, Acting Director, Green Alliance
Penny Lawrence, Deputy Chief Executive, Oxfam GB
Dr Mike Clarke, Chief Executive, RSPB
Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
It's great, but where's the bite ? If you behave as if you're a fringe issue you'll always be one. Actually, the environment is where we all live, not a remote greeny concept. 10 years ago David Milliband pointed out that 'Globetrotting Executives' won't want to locate in places with a reputation for poor - even dangerous - environments. Dropping environmental standards isn't so much about red tape as about turning Britain into a low rent, low quality country - something that the businessmen signing this letter have recognised and done much to combat through their own companies. And lets stop pretending that the nasty core of the Conservative party has any positive intentions - had they, they would not have spent the last 6 years setting up the environment as one of the scapegoats for the failures of their own policies.
What an excellent letter, just as appropriate now (Wednesday) as it was before this election was announced. The environment and wildlife conservation is going through a pretty rough period at the moment with not much prospect of improvement in the foreseeable future either at home or abroad, such as the USA. It can be very disheartening these days if you are a conservationist having to cope with many of the current politicians, their short sightedness and lack of interest and vision. However if history teaches us one thing, it is NEVER give in, things can and will turn around sooner or later if we stick at it and keep "fighting".
Yes the election will be on the 8th June subject to the debate tomorrow which has to have a two thirds majority for there to be an election, because of the fixed term parliament act.
For May below, read June.....
With a general election in the offing in May, this letter can now be redrafted and readdressed to all political parties asking them to reaffirm their commitment to international environmental obligations, amongst other things.....
I'm very worried about this matter as I think personally that this government is the worst I've known for protecting birds and other wildlife, as governments of all colours in the past since the first wildlife laws where passed in the UK have been reasonably good with protecting wildlife. But this government is the worst for various reasons in my opinion of which I won't go into detail of why.