Over the last few months I haven’t had many chances to write any blogs due to settling into the new world of university life. This has been quite infuriating, especially as I’ve felt I’ve not been doing enough of what I’m passionate about. One thing I missed sharing was a very interesting experience that I had back in November. For the first time ever, a special advisor for the environment has been appointed to the Prime Minister. This position has been taken by ex-Conservative Deputy Chief Whip and known birder, Sir John Randall. At the end of November, he invited myself and three other young conservationists including Josie Hewitt and Findlay Wilde, for a meeting and a bit of a chat about our concerns regarding the environment and what we’re passionate about when it comes to conservation.
It was an intriguing afternoon and I indulged in the opportunity, as did the others, to express my concerns with someone who could make a difference. Topics we spoke about included Hen Harrier and Driven Grouse Shooting, our concerns over environmental policy with Brexit, the Badger Cull, environmental education for children in and out of schools and the way that the government lack in expressing their interest in preserving the natural environment. I said what I wanted to and felt as though I had been listened to, the meeting felt successful. I also got the opportunity to discuss illegal bird trapping on British military base in Cyprus, following my visit there last September. Sir John explained plans of actions from the government and made notes, he was interested to hear what we had to say. In addition, it was interesting that the position of a special advisor for the environment has been appointed.
A month later and it appeared something had been stirred when chief Political Correspondent for The Telegraph reported on the meeting between myself, Findlay and Josie with Sir John at Number 10. The article focused on concerns from pro-hunting and shooting MP’s following Sir John’s comments about his stance on firearm licence’s, pheasant shooting and grouse moor management which have been published on Findlay’s blog. Christopher Hope (the Political Correspondent) stated that “Pro-field sports MPs are privately appalled by the comments” and “One Conservative MP said it was “quite extraordinary” that ministers were “promoting removal of licences beyond the already wide powers the police have to remove licences”.
The article can be found here – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/29/exclusive-theresa-mays-new-10-downing-street-environmental-adviser/
Yesterday morning the long awaited 25 Year Environment Plan was launched by the Conservatives. We spoke about this during our meeting with Sir John when we visited Number 10. The 25 Year Plan is a long-term strategy that is designed to reverse long term declines in ecosystems and preserve the environment for future generations. For a few hours yesterday morning, I caught up with Theresa May’s speech and had a read of the document.
My first reaction was that a large chunk of the plan and Theresa May’s speech focuses on reducing plastic waste and pollution. The amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans is undeniably shocking and has terrible consequences, but it seems that they have jumped on the Blue Planet wagon. They are aware of the popularity of disgust from what was highlighted on Blue Planet and it seems they are trying their hardest to appeal to the younger voter and the wider public who they know the issue is very popular with at the moment. She played a similar act last week when she announced her new stance not to attempt to repeal the Hunting Act due to public pressure.
Something else mentioned in the plan is a promise to engage more children with nature in and out of schools, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is something that I am very passionate about. The government has stated that they will do this through extra funding, but the amount they propose doesn’t come close to what has already been cut from this area in the past. The document also discusses development of habitat through a ‘Nature Recovery Network’ and made bold statements about preserving the countryside, such as “long-term approach to protecting and enhancing them in England for the next generation”. However, there was no mention of HS2 which plans to do just the opposite.
Despite other mentions and word choices including ‘hen harriers’ and ‘curlews’, there was nothing about wildlife crime in the UK or Driven Grouse Shooting. Unsurprising. Also lacking, was anything to do with the badger cull, fox hunting or animal welfare and cruelty. Furthermore, after comments about reducing pollution and their commitment to climate change, Fracking is still supported by the government. The plan is all very pretty at first glance and the big picture that’s been painted seems very promising, but with no mention of detail or hard legislation, it is all very underwhelming.
During our meeting at Number 10, one of the concerns that we expressed was about the way that the government publicly presents the environment as something that is unimportant and of no concern. Today’s announcements and plans have created a lot of attention, but for how long is this going to last before it all dies down and little happens. In an attempt to appeal to younger voters and give into public pressure, the Conservatives have painted a nice picture with their ideas but there is no hard commitment or legislation that suggests that they’re going to deliver. There is also a lot missing, it is once again proven that they are not in touch with the immediate needs of our natural environment. Little has been given to the protection of natural areas, wildlife and those species who can’t afford a long-term strategy. Immediate action is needed to ensure that they are there to be enjoyed by future generations.