Saturday, 20 February 2016

#Think500YearsAhead Thunderclap

If you have arrived at this page by following the #Think500YearsAhead campaign on Twitter, then thank you for taking that extra step and actually clicking on the link to find out what this is all about. You can read all about why the Thunderclap was launched in the original post below.

In the meantime, here are a few facts for you to take in, and please, really think about these facts, don’t just brush over them:

Over 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities
Drastic loss of 97% of UK wildflower meadows since the second world war 
The average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years
50% of world wildlife has been lost in the last 40 years
long-term and ongoing decline of UK butterflies, with 70% of species declining

Some seriously worrying statistics there, and all of them have been caused by one thing, us. Nature has no borders or boundaries (apart from man-made ones). Unlike the EU, we are not either in or out of nature. We are part of it, we need it, and it has never been more urgent that nature is put at the heart of decision making.  This planet isn’t ours it isn’t owned by anybody. It’s not our right to keep taking from it and give nothing back. 

Its common sense, if you take more than you give back, eventually there will be nothing left.  So please, as you go about your daily life, enjoying all the modern luxuries that take pieces from the natural world, please, please think about how you can give something back. 

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Albert Einstein



So we now have a date for the EU referendum, Thursday 23rd June. I wonder what the outcome will be and I wonder what this could mean for the natural world. How will this impact wildlife/climate policies, as most of these are made at EU level.

I gave a talk at Westminster last year asking our MPs to put nature at the heart of their decision making and not to leave it last in the queue. Sadly though, the natural world seems to have fallen further and further down the political agenda. Below are just a few examples of decisions that have been made since then:

  • Wildlife crime unit was facing closure for a while
  • Subsidies cut for green energy
  • Fracking to be allowed under national parks (fracking to be allowed at all)
  • More and more green belt land being given over for development

It really worries me how short sighted so many political and business decisions can be.  They allow everyone to keep taking from the natural world and don't do nearly enough to protect it for future generations. We can't survive without nature, we all are a part of it, we all have to look after it. It's as simple as that.

I can't have a vote in the referendum, so I am asking you all to help my generation's voice be heard in a different way, by joining my Thunderclap in shouting out a clear message. The message is that we want to see people with the power to make a difference thinking 500 years ahead and not just 5 years ahead.

I have set up a Thunderclap to help this message get heard. For those of you who don't know, a thunderclap is a way of getting a single message to be shared by hundreds, maybe even thousands of people at exactly the same time on on Twitter. If the Thunderclap is really successful, we stand a chance of getting it trending on Twitter and therefore get even more people thinking about the importance of thinking further ahead, so that future generations are not clearing up our mess.

The Thunderclap tweet will read:

"I want MPs to put the natural world at the heart of decision making and #Think500YearsAhead not just 5 years ahead." 

I now have about 60 days to drum up support for this Thunderclap and it will then be posted on social media accounts on 19th April, about half way through the build up to the referendum vote.

So please, please click here and sign up to the Thunderclap and help me to get my generation's voice heard.

Thank you, and keep thinking 500 years ahead.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Good Question 29 - Can I Have The Bill Please?

Welcome to the first quiz night Tuesday of 2016. Tonight's question is all about bills. So can you identify which birds these bills belong to.  I have switched comment modification on, so none of your answers will appear until I reveal the correct answers. I will post the answers on Thursday, so good luck, and hope you don't lose too many hours working them out.

And the answers are

A massive thank you to all of you that had a go, there were some real tricky ones in there and no-one got 100%.  The answers are now all below.


Tree Sparrow


Fire Crest


Grasshopper Warbler









Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Make a B-Line for Buglife

Believe it or not, there are over 1500 pollinator species in the UK. Species that help to pollinate include moths, honeybees, beetles, bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies, butterflies and even bats. Pollinators are such a fantastic example of how nature just gets things right, how everything just works in harmony; but sadly, once again, we are the ones standing in the way of nature doing its thing.

Eyed Hawk Moth

So what exactly are pollinators? Well the definition of a pollinator is:

“an animal that causes plants to make fruit or seeds. They do this by moving pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. This pollen then fertilises the plant. Only fertilised plants can make fruit and/or seeds, and without them, the plants cannot reproduce”. 

This definition shows just how important bees and other pollinators are to us. It proves how much we rely on natural eco-systems in the production of food crops across the country.  For starters, one out of every three bites of food we eat is made possible by a pollinator, and 80% of all flowering plants rely on pollinators for survival.  Basically, if the pollinators all die, we won’t be too far behind them.

Imagine now what it would be like if all our towns and cities and villages were not linked together by roads and by rail; travelling would be virtually impossible. We would not be able to reach the amenities we need to survive in this modern age. But sadly, the natural network corridors relied upon by many of the UK’s bees and other pollinators are so badly disjointed, that bees are really struggling.  Our insects are already suffering due to climate change and chemicals such as Neonicotinoids, so the loss of natural corridors is just a step too far in their battle for survival.

I am lucky enough to have contact with two stewardship farms, which both have the most stunning wild flower meadows.

These meadows look stunning, smell amazing and really awaken your senses. But how often do you see places around you with a wildflower meadow? Think hard, in fact you’ll have to think very hard, as there won’t be many. Since the 1930s Britain has lost over 97% (an area the size of Wales) of wildflower rich grassland, therefore action needs to be taken immediately, or it is predicted that between 40 – 70% of our British insect species will go extinct. We must all speak out and action must be taken to enable these insects to disperse and travel across the landscape as they once could.

Our bees, butterflies and hoverflies have suffered badly over the last 50 years due to the rapidly changing landscape which is due to a number of factors including intensive farming, urban spread, and new transport links. However it is also important to note that it isn’t just our well known insect species like bees and butterflies being affected, but a whole array of different invertebrates are also in the firing line.  Two species that have become extinct in the UK since the start of the 21st century are the Cullem’s bumblebee (Bombus cullumanus), which was last recorded in 1941and the Short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus), which was last recorded in 1988.

So, what is being done? There are plenty of organisations out there who care about our British pollinators and insects, who are starting projects to help and protect these species.  One such organisation is Buglife. They have come up with a national solution, which I think is really stepping up to the mark to protect our British pollinators and insects, and this huge, long term project is called B–Lines.

B–Lines’ goal is to create a series of wildflower corridors across the UK to give insects the mobility to move around the country from one wildflower meadow to the next one.  They hope to create and restore at least 150,000 hectares of flower-rich habitat across the UK.  You can follow the progress they make on an interactive map on their website.

Benefits of this project include of course helping to conserve our native pollinators and lots of other species of wildlife, and also helping our wildlife to respond to climate change by enabling them to move around a lot easier.  Of course all these benefits are fantastic, but I think the most important one is the fact that B–Lines helps bring nature to people. It offers everybody the chance to help protect our native insects, and makes more people aware that even the smallest of our wildlife plays an important part in everyone’s lives.  The partnerships that are being formed between land owners, farmers and the general public are so important for this project to work.

Of course not everyone is able to get involved with the bigger projects, but there are things that all of us can do to help. Imagine if every rural and urban garden was brimming with native, pollen laden plants. That would add up to a huge area, increasing the number of stepping stones pollinators need to travel between the remaining wild flower meadows.

We can all do our bit to help pollinators by planting our gardens with native bee-friendly flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar which bees can easily access from spring until late summer. This will ensure that there is a good supply of pollen at all of the crucial times.  Just let your garden grow wild! And what about shared community areas, is there anything you can do to influence the planting of native bee friendly plants in these areas. If you are a land owner, then think about what you could do to help, and please, please get in touch with Buglife.

All our British insect species need protecting, and B–Lines is offering everybody the opportunity to get involved.  It is a brilliant long term project and one I’m sure will succeed if we all get behind it (or even bee-hind it).  A lot of our insects currently go unnoticed, but image if they were not there at all. If that was the case, then I think everybody would start to understand, and miss, the positive impact they have on all our lives.