“We could of course be existentialist about all this [celebrating wildlife], say things are worth doing for their own sake and just enjoy them.” So says ‘Peter S’ in a comment thread in the last ECOS, where readers debate people’s armchair interest in nature not translating into actions. The context for that discussion was the TV Planet Earth II series.
Perhaps we have parallel concerns before and after a general election. Will people and politicians take notice of nature and the environment? How should we nudge them to do so? Are the stakes even higher in Brexit’s time of reform? We have a daunting task and must show unwavering commitment, influencing people at every turn. Or maybe not. If we are a little less desperate in our desire to help nature, we might feel more confident in ourselves and look more appealing to others. People might discover us, our organisations, and enjoy nature along with us. Reaching out to people must be engaging, yes, but tailored and subtle measures might work best. Thrusting the message can be overdone. Being shrill is rarely influential.
Another Peter S, the author Peter Shirley (they might be the same?) has some more tactical advice in this edition. In the realms of politics and policy reforms, he suggests we concentrate on the science. It is evidence which gives us authority, and justifies our advice, and our priorities for merging wildlife into decision making. Harnessing our data, whatever the source, maybe from citizen science sometimes, and up to the State of Nature reports, is a core role we must stick with. And engaging people in the data can be productive itself, from the input of children and parents in a BioBlitz for instance, to helping students find meaningful projects. Ways of securing data can be stimulating, and create openings for various skills, as we see with the example of African wild dogs in this issue.
Peter Shirley introduces another slippery matter: our place in the wider environmental agenda. He prefers caution and keeping to our core interests. Getting tangled with wider environmental matters brings risks. Yes we need to make connections and reinforce mutual agendas, but there are pitfalls, and we can dilute our message. Stick to what we’re good at (hopefully) is an essential starting point. Plantlife’s current drive on nitrogen concerns is a neat example. The impacts of nitrogen emissions on wildlife need more attention. Jenny Hawley explains the issues and the gingering role Plantlife is playing in this edition.
Elsewhere in the issue we look at evidence on the impacts of wind turbine infrastructure on bats. The situation is fluid, the data evolving. This allows different camps to push their view accordingly. Conservationists might consider a precautionary outlook and be wary of the Royal Shilling from developers. Renewable energy is perhaps an example of Peter Shirley’s boundary concerns. Conservationist might be wise to check their idealism before embracing every angle and each technology in the renewable energy mix. Apart from needing to know more on the impacts of renewables on wildlife and on beauty (see our book reviews) there are regressive effects from some renewables policy. As ever there is devil in the detail.
We tend to be quite rustic in much of our ECOS coverage. Meanwhile technology is shaping and helping nature conservation’s work and research in many ways. The consequences of technology are not always what we expect. It can offer surprises, new pathways, new data, and of course distractions. We begin to peep into technology’s help and its hassles in this edition. The work on monitoring African wild dogs explained in this issue is pioneering - it aids the species and it helps shift attitudes. We are following up the technology theme with articles on conservation drones and camera traps later in the year. If you have thoughts on other technology to discuss, and learn lessons from, positive or otherwise, please get in touch.
Enjoy the elections if you can. Maybe quietly speak up for nature.
ECOS 38 (2) CONTENTS
Positioning nature in the current politics
Bringing back nature in the Brexit countryside
Understanding nitrogen’s impacts on nature
Can we say what Nature is?
Using conservation technology to monitor African wild dogs
Helen O’Neill & Dani Rabaiotti
What do we really know about impacts of turbines on bats?