‘It’s not about the money’ says David Blake in this issue, as he considers conservation’s glum situation. This is a risky, inflammatory statement, not least given the Chancellor’s 2015 Autumn Statement which announced further deep bites into the budgets of Defra and its agencies. Environment and wildlife activity is falling further down government’s priority list. The chips are down. In this edition we begin our look at Revitalising Conservation, exploring the dip in conservation’s fortunes, and suggesting how to regain confidence, purpose and influence. Our contributors form an eclectic mix, including a farmer, storyteller, wildlife photographer, shaman, blogger, youth workers, and founder of a rewilding charity. We also welcome friends from the e-networking group Values in Nature and the Environment. VINE are keen to communicate the love of nature which is apparent amongst the conservation workforce, but is too often overlooked. The touchy-feely side of our subject isn’t easy for some of us to embrace. And VINE go further. They recognise a sense of pantheism in the way some people relate to the natural world. Perhaps it is these deep roots and this elemental strength that we need to call upon while nature conservation finds itself downtrodden.
It is no surprise, maybe, to see connections with wellbeing so strongly pushed by wildlife groups at present, including the desire for a Nature and Wellbeing Bill. The Bill has been sidestepped by government in favour of a 25 year plan for nature’s recovery, but the new era of policy must have a quality of life dimension, to press the point that we ourselves need nature for all its different worth, whether or not we see ourselves as pantheists. Back to David Blake’s provocation: is he too brutal, or should we look beyond the resource problem as we try to revitalise? Austerity makes conservation bodies poorly equipped, whether for topical concerns like flood management, the routine matters of habitat care, visitor facilities and people engagement, or the more foundation work of research and monitoring. A beleaguered and cash-strapped workforce will feel ineffective. There’s no escaping the need to generate funds, both creatively and through nudging government, especially to stage a 25 year nature recovery plan. But David Blake is not alone amongst our authors in bemoaning conservation’s formulaic and lofty procedures. This is beyond the bureaucracy and contrived monitoring that farmer Martin Hole complains of in this issue. Revitalising conservation may need a change of mindsets, avoiding an elitist culture and a preoccupation with process at the expense of product. A greater focus on human-scale conservation, celebrated by Gavin Saunders, VINE and others in the following pages, may be a liberating force.
Download Editorial as PDF: ECOS 36 3-4-1 Editorial