The State of Nature Report: PANIC!

The State of Nature report is out! Hurrah it is a time for rejoicing and celebration and…wait, no, that’s not right. If I could borrow from H2G2 for a moment, it would perhaps have been best if they’d just plastered PANIC! across the title page to save everyone the trouble of reading it.

And they’d have been right to do so, because if not now then when? When do we actually start to panic?

Well, not yet apparently. Because everything is fine. Everything is absolutely fine. It’ll all be OK. Climate change? Pah! Habitat loss? Nothing to it. Sixth extinction phase? What are you talking about? At least this is what some would have us believe.

The State of Nature report predictably, accurately (although perhaps not very diplomatically and without much of an eye towards future collaboration) laid the blame primarily at the farming sector. So it’s not surprising that a few predictables came out swinging with what amounts to barefaced lies backed up by irrelevant stats.

DEFRA – the Department for Farming – reassured everyone that “our natural environment is cleaner and healthier than at any time since the industrial revolution – woodland cover in England is at its highest level since the 14th century, we have improved water quality in 9,000 miles of rivers since 2010 and in the last five years almost 19,000 miles of hedgerow have been planted.” Let me repeat that: our natural environment is cleaner and healthier than at any time since the industrial revolution. Clearly poppycock but also the kind of wide ranging claim that it’s virtually impossible to actually disprove (or prove, but who needs to prove anything?).

The NFU, those paragons of restraint who absolutely do not have squatters rights at Westminster, came out with a peculiar statement claiming that it can’t be their fault because they stopped that whole intensive farming stuff back in the 90’s (Yes, seriously. Although the exact wording left just enough wiggle room to question the exact meaning).

patterson

‘Owen, with your face like a bankrupt pug.’

They were happy, like that goon Owen Patterson, to shovel as much blame as possible onto uncontrolled predator numbers (Patterson actually tweeted this statement with a picture of him in front of a GWCT stand. Yes, seriously). There are a lot of my fellow conservationists who will turn a blind eye to the problems caused by increased predators numbers and I am not one of them, but seriously, give over. It’s peanuts in the scale of things. It’s not even peanuts. And it’s a problem the industrialisation of farming caused in the bloody first place.

Then there’s the Daily Mail approach which seems to amount to saying ‘yes, I know I don’t know the first thing about the subject, but I saw some birds outside my house, so everything must be fine. Expert opinion? Who needs experts? I’m a journalist and the farmers told me it’s all lies‘. I know it’s the Mail and we don’t exactly expect high standards of journalism, but this is pushing the envelope for half-arsing it.

It’s a whole new field of denial. I think everyone has just about got the message now that Climate Change denial is not OK and is quite likely to have you pigeon-holed with the flat-earthers, but there’s still plenty of seemingly obvious things you can deny. This is the post-expert age after all (sorry, “expert”). At the moment it is still absolutely OK to argue that the natural world is not in a state of decay or that the intensive management of 75% of the land could possibly have any detrimental impact on it. This will not get you ridiculed. It might even get you appointed Secretary of State for Rural Affairs. In the wake of the referendum, you should probably get used to it. Because house on fire or rising sea, some people are going to keep telling us that everything is just fine.

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Hey! That’s Not Knotweed (and other games I’ve been playing this week)

For some confluence of reasons I’ve yet to adequately clarify, the role of inspecting reports of Japanese Knotweed around the whole Borough has now fallen in my lap like an ugly and unwanted child (OK, yes, I need to work on my similes). I’ve spent hours I don’t have to spare over the last few months chasing up reports from the public and on at least 50% of occasions, this has turned out to be a wild goose chase*. So before you do pick up the phone or write a missive to your local greenspace manager, it might be worth playing a little game I’ve devised: Hey! That’s not knotweed!

sunflower“I’ve just spotted some Japanese Knotweed in one of the lovely formal gardens on the Park. You must come and get rid of it immediately before it overtakes the bedding!”

  • Hey! That’s not Knotweed! – It’s a Sunflower! Give it a while and it’ll have a nice flower on the top.bindweed

“There’s Knotweed creeping all up the fence on the edge of your reserve and if it gets into my property, I’m going to sue you!”

  • Hey! That’s not Knotweed! – It’s a Bindweed! The creeping part being the clue.

dogwood“There’s a band of Knotweed in the hedge along the boundary of the Pavilion. Can you please make sure it is removed immediately.”

  • Hey! That’s not Knotweed! – It’s Dogwood! It is the boundary hedge, you berk.dock

“There’s a whole heap of Knotweed growing in with the nettles on the edge of the woodland. It would be a shame if this colonised the rest of the site because of your neglect.”

  • Hey! That’s not Knotweed! – That’s a dock. Leave it alone.

sycamore“We’ve got little stems of Knotweed coming up all through the woodland. It’s everywhere!”

  • Hey! That’s not Knotweed! – Come on, you’re not even trying now. That’s Sycamore. Which, yes, actually I will still remove that though.knotweed

“I’ve got Japanese Knotweed in my garden, can you please come and remove it or I wont be able to sell my house.”

  • Hey! That’s…actually, that is Knotweed, but it’s your bloody house, why are you calling me?

But yes, Japanese Knotweed is a massive pain and can be a right arse to eradicate. The level of hysteria it causes is beginning to become vastly disproportionate to the amount of damage it can cause though. This is particularly evident in householders (which I am aware is not always the householders fault). Before reporting though, please do take a minute to check that you know what you are looking at and for the love of God, please do not think that threatening me with legal action is actually going to make the stuff disappear any quicker.

*A point of interest – why Wild Geese? Are they particularly hard to chase? Judging by the fat greylags on some of my sites, I can’t imagine they are.