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  • Writer's pictureAndy Clark

A Quick Lesson From Birdlife International

Earlier this year we experienced a baffling Déjà vu in the UK, ushering many environmentalists into a familiar uproar, as a suite of pesticides - 'Neonicotinoids', banned by the EU for the damage they do to bees - was tabled for reintroduction to British farming.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has promised new laws to enforce the restoration of nature across the block, the details of which will be released after a public consultation period due to end on the 5th of April (which is quite soon!). That means two things:

1) Environmentalists are right to grateful for the thought but hesitant to be too optimistic, as we still don't know what these new laws will actually entail or achieve.

2) You have a chance to input into the decision-making process!

To make things easier for anyone who doesn't feel fully qualified to advise the European Commission on matters of conservation legislation, Birdlife International as part of a group of definitively knowledgeable NGOs has filled in the public consultation form for you, based on their established expertise, and you can send that answer in the form of their joint petition to the EC right now.

What I think is really cool - and interesting - about this whole thing though, is that Birdlife et al have provided a breakdown of their answers and why they're submitting this response to the Commission. They've shown their working, and this insight allows you - the reader - to understand the issue in far greater detail. What a fantastic example of scicomm and lobbying in one!

[and sign the petition if you haven't done already]

Their thinking is very well explained throughout, so I won't reiterate it here (read it above). Suffice to say that this public insight into their informed perspective on the issue is both optimistic and cynical. In numerous places the group have declined to give an affirmative answer to the direct questions on the consultation, objecting to the inherent fulffiness or ambiguity of the terminology - adding their own, far more clearcut advice in the 'other' section at the end of each question.

In plenty of other places the group are reluctant to support ideas that seem, on the face of it, to have merit, but they know from amassed decades of experience are too vulnerable to evasion, loophole exploitation or mis-interpretation.

For example, when questioned how specific restoration targets should be, the only measure not supported is "species or group of species"-specific targets.


I'll admit that this might seem counter-intuitive from a nature conservation collaboration, but this answer is well-informed on decades of witnessing species-specific targets end up being exploited to the point that it's detrimental to the wider ecosystem.

Grouse-moors come to mind immediately as an example of single-species prioritisation in the UK, where we have enormous swathes of the uplands being managed by a very select few for the sole purpose of establishing unnaturally high numbers of grouse - so that they can then be shot for jollies. These management practices are incredibly detrimental to all other life in the uplands, and make grouse moors black-holes for biodiversity. (For more on this visit )

Other more genuine conservation efforts have been hindered in the past, admittedly by European legislation, as once sites have been labelled 'protected' due to the presence of a single protected species, that whole site has to be essentially locked in stasis for ever more - even if the state of the ecosystem as a whole is dire, and there's barely any life supported there apart from this one orchid (for example, I have nothing against orchids).

This is a new and incredibly welcome trend in conservation across the globe - a wonderfully

holistic approach, even if it is largely spurred on by the desperation that we've lost so much wildlife that any and all wildlife restored is a victory (that's really optimistic or pessimistic depending on how you say it).

Anyway, I'm very grateful that we have this opportunity to radically transform our relationship with nature, I'm very grateful to this collaboration of NGOs for sharing their reasoning so publicly, and I've got my fingers firmly crossed for a brighter future. But I'm making no assumptions at this point.

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