“Variety is the spice of life…”
The well known quote above comes from William Cowper’s poem The Task (1785) and is, in my opinion, very relevant when it comes to the conservation of the world around us and the infinite variety of flora and fauna we share it with.
Years ago mention conservation and conservationists and the typical stereo type conjured up in peoples minds was one of grubby bearded “hippies” sat in trees hurling abuse at the police. Fast forward a decade or so and it is a very different picture. Yes the stereo types are still with us, but now they have been joined by a growing army of others from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds. I include myself here, I am a fairly normal guy (depending on how you define normal!). I still eat meat, though not nearly as much, I own a car, buy stuff from Amazon and like a drink now and again.
We are very fortunate to live on a planet with so much variety and the chain of events that led to us and everything else we share this planet with being here are down to a series of really, really lucky events. Everything had to be just so, one tiny thing out of place and it would be very different. To prove my point scientists reckon Earth may be a 1 in 700 quintillion planet. A quintillon is a very BIG number. It’s a one followed by 30 zeroes, which looks like this: 1, 00000, 00000, 00000, 00000, 00000, 000000. Makes the chances of winning the lottery seem like a breeze.
With odds like that I’m sure you’ll agree Earth is a truly remarkable place and one we need to start looking after.
So Why Is Conservation Important?
I am old enough now to be able to say “I remember when all this was fields”. What has replaced those fields are industrial estates, houses and shops. Gone are the trees and hedgerows my sister and I spent endless summers exploring. Also gone are the lapwings, a once common sight as they foraged across the ploughed fields, gone are the huge flocks of starlings, the little owls and hares chasing each other in March.
Many will say this is progress and houses, factories and shops – urbanisation – is needed to accommodate our ever expanding population. While one cannot deny homes for people are important, along with the infrastructure to support them. The time has come when we need take a more measured and thoughtful approach as to where we build these homes, shops and factories and the impact it will have on the environment.
As people point out there is no planet B for us to move on to. Our plan A for how we live and interact with the planet does not seem to be working and worryingly we seem to have no plan B. We simply cannot put our fingers in our ears and go “la la la” anymore hoping the problem will go away. It’s time to face up to the facts we are poisoning our atmosphere, polluting our rivers and oceans, decimating our forests and our need for land is squeezing out wildlife. So yes, conservation and conservationists have never been more vital in our earth’s history. They are the ones who hold governments, councils and businesses to account and to justify their decisions and actions. Not just for the flora and fauna, but for US too.
Once They’re Gone, It’s Too Late!
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” another quote pertinent as to why conservation is so important today. Our need for space, whether for living, land to grow our food or factories for our power, has resulted in 155 species in the UK becoming extinct since the 1500’s. Since the 1950’s the number of hedgehogs have declined by 95%, while turtle doves have crashed by 98% and even numbers of the common toad have fallen by 68%. These are figures from a report by the Natural History Museum. You can read the entire article here.
I for one think it would be a sad day if we lost species like hedgehogs, they are ingrained in our hearts, like the robin, a symbol of rural Britain. Aside from that they are excellent at keeping slugs, snails and other garden pests under control.
What Difference Can I Make Though?
Know that feeling all to well. That sense of futility while vigorously washing out that Marmite bottle (other spreads are available) for the recycling. Yes it can make you feel what’s the point. Especially when we see images of the world’s forests being decimated by fire or logging operations. Towns and cities choking on smog from vehicles and factories. Once fertile land turned into arid wasteland. Often as a result of poor land management and over farming, and to add to it all our oceans are full to bursting with plastic!
Think of it like this though, that recycled bottle saves enough energy to power a light bulb in your home for four hours! And that soup can you lovingly cleaned out, well to put it into perspective we throw away 13 billion steel cans a year. That’s enough to make three towers which could reach to the moon, by the way the moon is 239,000 miles distance from earth!
So recycling our waste, using low energy bulbs, walking when possible rather than taking the car, or using public transport – yeah I know I’ve sat at a cold station many times waiting for the delayed 6:30am to turn up. The bottom line is, if we all do our bit, no matter how small, seemingly futile or insignificant it seems, we really can make a difference. We can be truly greater than the sum of our parts!
Since the Industrial Revolution back in 1760, we have done nothing but take, take, take from our home. Whether it’s fossil fuels to power our homes, transport and industries. Wood for paper, furniture and construction, animals to feed and cloth us and our rivers and oceans as convenient dumping grounds. It’s been one way traffic. Surely the time has come for us to take a step back. To think about what we are doing and where it will end up. Not just for us, but all life on earth. After all if I had a guest in my home who just took all the time and never showed any gratitude in return I know what I’d do – kick them out!
This is why I believe conservation is such an important topic and one we simply cannot afford to ignore.