If

If we thought about the natural world in terms of smaller personal spaces perhaps our attitudes would be very different.

It has become a daily experience to hear wildlife experts and commentators speak of the decline of particular species populations or the complete loss of species from an area that they formerly occupied. The magazines of wildlife organisations tread a difficult path, the news about diminished populations or lost species or even full extinctions is depressing yet articles also report positive news of projects to protect or reintroduce species through habitat improvement. The motivation for the positive examples is doubtless to encourage us to believe that we can reverse these declines and to continue with our financial or practical support for various wildlife causes.

It does not seem to matter whether they are alerting us to losses of plants, insects, birds, mammals or sea creatures. There is a terrifying pattern in their message. 

Often the headlines begin, since the 1940's (it may be the 50's. 60's 70's and so on),  or it might begin over the past decade, or in the last 15 years. You get the idea, you must have heard or read such headlines. The fact that these headlines are now common place around the world is worrying enough but what has struck me recently is the consistent message of the second part of such headlines. Sometimes it is worse but frequently it goes something like this, there has been a 65% (or 75%) reduction in the number of such and such species.

 

If we personally owned an aviary or a wildlife park or a botanic garden and suffered losses of 65 - 75% we would notice and we would care. So how come we feel powerless or indifferent when it occurs in our world but not in our direct ownership? Maybe it is just that - we feel powerless or it is someone else's fault or responsibility, the reasons (excuses) why we do nothing are many.

 

I find it doubly worrying (heartbreaking in fact) that as each generation comes along it grows up to believe that what it sees is the norm. Even I know that is just simply wrong, I know from personal experience over seven decades that what my children and grandchildren experience in the countryside or garden is not what it should be. My generation has probably presided over many of these 65 - 75% declines and I am ashamed.

 

So what are the causes offered as explanation for these terrible losses. Here are some that are frequently mentioned.

  • Habitat destruction (intensive agriculture, poor land management and expanding urban and suburban development)

  • Use of pesticides (using potent chemicals and dismissing natural controls)

  • Global warming (green house gases from industry and transport resulting from over consumption)

So returning to my theme that if we think about these large scale problems in terms of smaller spaces that we can imagine being directly responsible for, then personal actions are easier to adopt and own.

 

For small areas (like The Park) making room for wildlife by maintain a mosaic of habitats and not resorting to a lawn like monoculture. Our direct control of our gardens that are themselves part of the mosaic offer opportunities beyond just a lawn with dull borders. Pollinator and bird friendly patches are not difficult to achieve. Growing at least some of our own food, chemical free and without food miles is a positive action that we can all take on.

 

I think we are seeing sufficient change in our weather (this summer is one of the hottest nine years on record since 1905 that have all occurred in the last ten years). Exceptional weather isn't the same as climate change but there is a clear trend and it has affected the whole of the northern hemisphere this summer. In the past 60-70 years glaciers have been melting all over The Americas, Europe and Asia (and in the southern hemisphere too). These trends are certainly adding up to something! We are all free agents when it comes to making decisions about our personal consumption - that much is undeniable.

 

So if we can accept responsibility for the world around us as if we owned it and noticed day by day what is going on, then just as we protect and value our close personal property we can express our interest and make choices that reflect a sense of ownership for rather bigger elements of the world - such as The Park or The Parish or The Town, roadside verges  and so on - you get the idea.

 

 

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