Thursday, 9 July 2015

13 Years Wilde - Martin Harper

The next 13 Years Wilde guest blog comes from the Conservation Director of the RSPB, Martin Harper.  Although I have never met Martin face to face, we have had a lot contact through social media and he has always been really supportive. Martin has blogged quite a lot about the Hen Harrier situation on the RSPB website and I have learnt that it is important to read as many points of view as possible. I think it must be a tough job that he has, because some people will agree with you and others will be really against you. I am learning from people like Martin that working out what is the right thing to do is never going to be easy and that most times you can't do it on your own.


It was a dandelion seed that did it.  Howard Jones’ Hide and Seek was providing the soundtrack to the summer of 1984 and it was then that I first looked at a dandelion clock. I mean properly looked at it.  Like all kids, I’d blown many to tell the time.  But for some reason it wasn’t until I was 13 that I properly plucked the seeds and marvelled at the efficiency of the design: a tufted parachute carrying a delicate parcel to guarantee the next generation.

I wanted to know how things worked.  To me, understanding seed dispersal was a way of deciphering different species reproductive strategies.  The dandelion, like the oak tree invests in thousands of seeds, hoping that a few might make it, while mammals such as whales or humans take a very different approach – investing in just the one.

My mother was a biology teacher and I have her to thank for making me look at the world differently. She was the one that taught me to ask questions about the natural world.

And it was through exploration that I came to love it.  In many ways, I was a late convert.  For too long, I’d been side-tracked by cricket.  But, the more I saw and heard, the more I cared about what was happening to nature.  And I learnt to love beauty which is why I shall never forget the first time I saw a lapwing through binoculars.

I grew up in a Christian household – my father was a vicar – and it was clear that there were certain things that were right and things that were definitely wrong.  I have always had a pretty good sense of fairness and justice.  And, when I became aware of the damage that our species was doing to the other millions of other species on which we share this planet, this felt wrong.  It upset me, angered me and I think that these were the emotions that drove me eventually to want to do something about it.

Now, I am fortunate to have two young children who will, in a short time, also be 13.  My hope is that they too become fascinated by dandelions, by the extraordinary beauty of nature and that through this they learn to love and care about it.  We need the next generation of environmental leaders to act on love to help us live in harmony with nature.

Martin with the band Stornoway


  1. I'm kind of in awe at the variety of people who you've managed to get to blog in this series. I would've liked to have heard a little more on his Christian upbringing and perhaps does it/doesn't impact on conservation. Especially if I got it right (please do correct me if I'm wrong) that the Bible says we have dominion over animals etc?

  2. Another wonderful post Findlay... a wonderful read from Martin

  3. Again, all it takes is that one tiny piece of nature to captivate you. Thank you for a great blog post Martin.