On Thursday night, I attended a talk at my local birdwatching group, by Nick Acheson. If you haven’t heard of Nick before, he is an incredibly passionate conservationist, a brilliant speaker and since we did an event together at Cley, a friend of mine too. I wasn’t actually going to go to the talk, as my over-enthusiasm in recent bird races, made me feel somewhat-maligned by the ‘committee’ and I didn’t want to sit through a talk in a constant state of anxiety. However, Nick and I spoke during the day and I decided to go and support him, as a friend, and arm myself with a notebook and pen with the aim of learning more about the impact we are having on our environment.
I’m not going to lie, after Nick told me that the talk was going to be brutal, I knew I had to be there. There are a number of members of the group who have ridiculous carbon footprints as global birders and UK twitchers. I was looking forward to sensing their awkward fidgeting and squirming in the room. He started by stating clearly that this wasn’t going to be a nice, fluffy talk and he was about to bash us all on the head about the damage we had collectively caused to the environment. He told people to leave if they didn’t want to hear that – what a way to call out your audience. It was genius and courageous. I loved it.
My learning came mainly through statistics; graphs and diagrams that pulled together processes and studies that I kind of knew about, and I’m sure many others in the room kind of knew about too. It was an education; you see, Nick is immensely knowledgeable, an educator, and yes, he drilled us with data, hard, but it bored it’s way into your psyche. He explained some of the scientific and ecological processes behind the fast-tracking of climate change to the top of the environmental agenda. It was needed. One of the most potent things, that I asked him to send me for this blog, was this representation of CO2 levels in the atmosphere: …and this one showing the relationship between rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2:It wasn’t all about carbon emissions and footprints, nor were we taught to suck eggs when it came to things like the fossil fuel industry and this is an important skill in narration – leaving blanks for us to fill in. So too with a wealth of reality checks pertaining to agriculture and it’s long-term effects on the environment; from hedgerow removal to nitrate fertilisers and on to set aside, he laid it as bare as the monocultures that cover so much of Norfolk’s landscape. Nothing forced this point more to me, than an aerial photo of Foxley wood, disconnected from all other habitats – adrift in a sea of crop fields.
Amongst all of the wider information, Nick said something, whilst discussing the impacts of climate change on migration and breeding that really hit home. In the spring chapter of Bird Therapy, I wrote about our returning warblers, but Nick stated unequivocally that all it takes is for one species to slightly adapt their life cycle in response to rising temperatures, for a food chain to collapse. A scary and sobering point. If you’ve read Bird Therapy, you will know that I love ordered patterns and structure. Nick ended his talk by sharing with his six point plan, which I’m also going to share here as not only did it resonate, but I bloody love a good framework too. It was hard not to WOOP each time Nick introduced another one:
- Science – inform yourself, accept the science and stop living in denial of the impacts of climate change.
- Challenge vested interests – industrial, agricultural, corporate and those who are hypocritical; as Nick said speak truth to power.
- Cooperate – we need to work together, cohesively to make change happen.
- Connect – one of the five ways to wellbeing too, here with a focus on wildlife corridors and rewilding/regeneration.
- Take personal responsibility – there are so many ways: research, gardening, building, buying, dietary choices, travel, community cohesion and recognising health benefits (Bird Therapy) . My personal changes are in my last blog, here.
- Live in hope – he ran out of time here, but we sure need some.
Nick began his talk, proper, by saying that he is increasingly angst-ridden about our attitude to wildlife. So am I and so should we all be.