ECOS 37 (3/4) Editorial: Chilling in the swamp. Geoffrey Wain

Feeling stressed? Too many conservationists seem to be. Stress is an occupational hazard in our frantic lives helping wildlife, and recent political events have upped the angst. Yet the Brexit authors in this edition are broadly hopeful. Farm support will be re-cast and agricultural output will be downplayed, they suggest. In its place, ‘benefits’ might well be the focus for public funds. We’ve been harping on about ecosystem services (or benefits) for years – maybe their time has come. Abstract debate about benefits could now become reality, with pollination, flood resilience, soil maintenance, wildlife enhancement and other such goodies being part of the case for attracting funds.

Exiting the EU provides the excuse to dampen down the effects of agricultural support, but it provides the excuse to unleash dark forces, including against nature. Our contributor Peter Shirley notes that legal protection of bats and great-crested newts is already being questioned by business lobbies. Will the Government continue to squeeze funds for the environment and push more deregulation, despite wanting to sound green and caring? This is what we must be alert to. It might be gradual and insidious in Britain, but it is blatant in the US, as a new President boasts about slashing public funds across most sectors, dubbed as ‘draining the swamp’. But like public services, swamps are complex. A crude interference with them could be counterproductive and bring unforeseen trouble.

Okay, so these are unsettling times, but we work alongside nature. We should commune with it, love it, let it work its spells on us. We must find time to de-stress at our swamps and our equivalent bits of paradise amongst the natural world. We promote nature as a health-cure, so let’s take our own advice, and aim for less stress in 2017 as we face new challenges.

Finally, this is the end of an era for ECOS. We become web-based, fully, in 2017. Some readers cherish the volumes on their shelves, and there are regrets, as we leave the book form for good. There will be six issues coming to your inbox from 2017. Like now, some will be themed, some more of a mix. The content should feel similar, with an independent spirit, so the ECOS brand will live on. The format will allow reader comments on articles, and debate to unfold. Harnessing readers’ ideas will bring fresh voices to ECOS, and new vibes as we pursue BANC’s aim of ‘challenging conservation’ together, and watch over our swamps.

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