The Linnean Society filmed the debate I had with George Monbiot in November, discussing the pros and cons of Re-wilding and Conservation.
The film, which was professionally made and edited, is now available to watch here . I haven’t seen it yet, but I think I know what’s going to be in it (you can never tell until you’ve seen the edit.)
Please take a look and let me know what you think.
It was an interesting presentation, but not nearly enough was made of the fact that no one knows what a wild Britain would actually look like, and no one really pointed out that if we just left a large area to itself, then the subsequent rewildling would involve a lot of ‘alien’ species. A very large proportion of mammal species are human assisted, and even some of our ‘native’ birds are as a result of human activity.And a huge proportion of the plant species now found in Britain are exotics. In terms of species diversity anthropogenic changes have certainly increased the overall total. But my main concern is that in terms of value for money, if we really want to conserve the world’s biodiversity and species diversity, then Britain is not a good place to do it. In fact it is a very bad place to do it
Thanks very much John. It was sadly a very short debate – there was just an hour for presentations and discussion. But in reality of course the debate has been going on for far longer and will continue to do so. You will find many posts on this blog which do address all the issues you’ve raised.
I would agree with you that the UK is mostly irrelevant to global biodiversity conservation if you are just looking at conserving species diversity. Although some groups are very well represented here because of our Atlantic climate and being a bit of a cross-roads between a number of biogeographical regions – marine algae, lichens, broyophytes and fungi are examples.
The UK is most relevant to conservation because of our being still a fairly major economic player in the world, our historical relationships with countries such as the Commonwealth and the USA; and our current relationship with Europe. What we do here sends signals (for good and ill) to these countries and the rest of the world. Why should Brazil or Indonesia take any notice of us pontificating about nature conservation if we can’t even protect the little we have? It goes deeper – as a society our relationship with nature is reflected, or refracted, by our politicians and influencers. What is the single most important UK entity that influences global biodiversity conservation/destruction? I would suggest it was the City of London. If we conservationists can, through our actions for nature in the UK, influence those people in the City, then we can have a surprisingly profound effect elsewhere – and that influence may be something as simple as enabling a city financier to understand why the bit of downland, meadow or ancient woodland on their hobby farm/estate is rich in wildlife; and what they can do to help maintain or even enhance it. Maybe I’m being ridiculously optimistic and naive!
agree with everything you write. So perhaps the UK’s strategy should be to look at the little we have that truly is globally significant and pull out all the stops? Make sure our seabirds don’t continue to decline, for instance. And address the real issues of their decline. Small hope of that happening!
And why should bird hunters in Italy listen to us about killing songbirds, when Brits still shoot woodcock etc. No ecological sense at all. Not much hope I am afraid. I am too old to be optimistic any more.
I will come back to the issue of global importance and rapid decline as critieria for conservation action, on monday.
Miles, yes my question to the panel could have been pithier (like my Times letters) but your reply didn’t address the food element of my question.
You almost repeat this in your comment above by referring to Brazil et al not listening to us on nature conservation when it’s our our food consumption they wish to emulate (especially emerging Asian countries) and this will become a greater threat to habitat unless we look at farming more efficiently from less land & less resources.
Monbiot was explicit that the lowlands should be left for food production.
I don’t believe that we have the luxury anymore of indulging in nature conservation only discussions without a reckoning on how we produce affordable food into the future.
Thanks Rob. I think we need to be clear about what we mean by farming more efficiently, and affordable food.
I don’t accept that conservation only discussions are indulgent or a luxury, given that without biodiversity and other natural resources, we would not be able to produce any food for ourselves.
The environmental impact of intensive food production is already limiting productivity – climate change, biodiversity loss, soil loss, water stress and the spread of crop and animal diseases are all symptomatic of the lack of environmental sustainability in many food production systems.
I would hope that Brazil and other emerging countries would be able to learn from the mistakes we have made in our relentless drive to maximise production, regardless of the social or environmental costs. Sadly, while we are happy as consumers to purchase meat fed on soya beans grown in Brazil, we are contributing to their loss.
Not everybody eats meat. And if nobody ate meat, would that solve the problem?
Thanks Roddy. If nobody ate meat, that might well solve some problems. We still need to produce food though, and that food will always have some kind of environmental footprint.
Would you agree that vegetarians are the best off-setters?
what are vegetarians offsetting Roddy?
Vegetarians off-set the larger environmental footprint of meat production by not eating meat.
interesting idea Roddy – perhaps some sort of food footprint trading scheme could be established.
The meat-eater/vegetarian axis would be only one of many that contributed to each of our environmental footprints. A globe-trotting vegetarian would have a far greater environmental footprint than a stay at home meat eater. Also, there will be a huge spectrum within the veggie-s footprint, and the meat-eaters. For example, a vegetarian that consumes mostly imported fruit and vegetables may have a surprisingly large footprint, while a meat-eater that only eats what they can kill themselves, would have a very small one.
No. That won’t do it for me. I’m not happy until you take back “might well solve some problems” and give me “will definitely solve most of the problem” instead.
And your blog’s banner image worries me, too. And that Monbiot worries me more than you do but you can’t reply to his posts.
I would love to think I could make all my readers happy Roddy, but I know that’s not possible.