On Saturday we joined 10,000 others on the People’s Walk for Wildlife to stand up for the wildlife we love. Just as it was declared many times by the organiser, Chris Packham, and the other speakers, there is a war on wildlife in the UK. Wildlife cannot speak for themselves. We must fight for them. That was the essence of the day.
Some of it is a deliberate war. The culling of badgers and seals, the hunting of foxes, the persecution of raptors. The people who refuse to share their world with other life and so cut down trees and poison plants so the “wild” can’t get anywhere near them. The people who care so little for others that they leave their litter strewn across our towns and our countryside. These acts are no accident.
But most of the damage, whether it is because of ignorance, apathy, tradition, desperation or narrow mindedness, was not intentional. It’s not about pointing fingers but about opening our arms to unite for change we all need. Government has made a lot of mistakes and thinks too much in the short term. But we are at a turning point as crises come to a head. The environment is on the agenda, Brexit forces their hand and government is saying the right things for the first time in possibly forever.
It was a brilliant and inspirational day. I couldn’t stop smiling to see the passion from my fellow human beings. I dressed up as a pine marten and Alex wore holly blue butterfly wings. I saw people dressed as owls, bees, an earwig, a giant caterpillar, a hedge and a couple of trees. Cuddly animals and art adorned hats, bags and banners. Despite the rain spirits were high. Whilst never lessening the seriousness of the challenges we face, the speakers were positive and peaceful. Anger was put forward in a proactive way. There was little judgement just an open welcome to those who want to and can make a difference. This was especially true of farmers.
I saw a farmer (who didn’t attend) being critical on Twitter accusing those at the walk of hating farmers and not trying to work with them. But that was so far from the truth, the loudest cheers were for the wildlife farmers talking on stage. People screamed their support for the speakers that told us we need to unite and support our farmers so they can support our wildlife, and the ecosystems that underpin our survival.
Farmers did what government told them to do but now we know better and it’s time for change. So we must all work together. This was the main message of the Walk. There are plenty of NGOs transforming the way farming is done alongside real farmers. We just need government to give the right support so this can become true of all farming.
Chris Packham highlighted the lack of diversity in the crowds. Wildlife and nature is for everyone, not just the white middle classes. The benefits of nature which ultimately we cannot live healthy lives without should be accessible and enjoyed by everyone no matter their skin colour or background. This is another challenge we face.
The young speakers that Chris brought on stage were the best of all. Especially the stunning poetry from Dara McAnulty, Findlay, the boy who stood up to Bear Grylls (and got kicked out the Scouts for it!), and a powerful speech from 15 year old Bella Lack that really moved me. But they were all an inspiration.
There’s no feeling in the world quite like walking with thousands of other likeminded people for one glorious purpose. Birdsong rang out across the streets, giant owls and bats swooped over our heads, banners showed love for the wildlife that enriches all our lives. There were people as far as the eye could see drowning out the grey of London streets and persistent rain. Cars and buses honked their support as we walked. I’ve been to several environmental marches but I’ve never seen that before.
The Walk happened, it was newsworthy and it was extraordinary. Even if the BBC betrayed their viewers by not reporting on it. Nowadays social media tells the real news and #PeoplesWalkForWildlife was trending.
But as Chris reminded us, this was a good start. The first step on a journey to a better future. Now we must take forward that passion and that united feeling and use it to fuel action.
An Agricultural Bill that delivers and an ambitious Environment Act that enforces really could change things for the better for us and for our wildlife. And we must act in our everyday lives too, every action we take has an impact for better or worse on our world.
How you can help
- Read and share the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife. It’s a beautiful, meaningful and educational document that’s easy to read but based soundly on science and independent voices. It’s only the first draft, it’s for the people and by the people, so read it and share your thoughts and ideas for the next draft.
- Write to or even meet with your MP to tell them why this matters to you or send them a copy of the manifesto. Ask them to support an ambitious Environment Act.
- The peers in the Lords matter too, they often have huge sway on amendments to legislation going through Parliament and many of them are passionate environmentalists. They often stand up to the Commons when they attempt to weaken laws or slip in unacceptable changes. Write to or meet with your local peer.
- Make changes in whatever small (or big) way you can, avoid plastic, make room for wildlife where you live, let things grow, support wildlife farmers, consume consciously, volunteer, donate and support campaigns. If you love wildlife and want a rich future, let your voice be heard.