Back in the heat of the summer I got a call from Chris Packham. In itself, exciting enough, but his message made it even more so … ‘I have two things to say,’ he began, ‘The first is that you cannot speak to anyone about the second.’
And so began my role in the creation of what is now a magnificent ‘Manifesto for Wildlife’. There are 18 ‘Ministers’ who have each taken on a ‘Department’. Clearly he thought that a Minister for Hedgehogs was too niche … and if there had been more time I might have argued my point … but I have to admit to being thrilled to being ‘Minister for Lines’ – actually, I am in charge of the Ministry for Hedgerows and Verges.
Minister for Lines amuses me – when I was at Hay Festival in 2017, launching Linescapes into the wild, there was a question/statement from the audience calling for me to be given this job – which was greeted with a cheer … long before it was even a spark in Packham’s eye!
Running in conjunction with the Walk for Wildlife – taking place on Saturday 22nd – the Manifesto is a brave and rigorous call for an end to the War on Wildlife. As Chris has written, “We say that ‘we’ve lost 97% of our flower rich meadows since the 1930s’ or that ‘we’ve lost 86% of the Corn Bunting population’. We speak of ‘a loss of 97% of our Hedgehogs’. Loss , lost . . . as if this habitat and these species have mysteriously disappeared into the ether, as if they’ve accidentally vanished. But they haven’t – they’ve been destroyed.”
This is a war – launched by an economic system that refuses to accept responsibility for the costs it hands onto the planet. Economists call these ‘externalities’ – a company makes a profit from a product or process only because it does not pay the cost of the damage exacted on us all. At the heart of the Manifesto is the need to have these costs accounted for.
The details are developed by an amazing band of independent writers and thinkers – and I am so thrilled, and rather awestruck, to be in such company.
In this ‘male, pale and stale’ world of wildlife it is also vital that Chris has ensured balance – 50% women – a wide mix of age and background – and there are ministries to look into inclusion of race and class. The natural world is fundamental to us all – whatever colour, class or creed.
So – the Manifesto – it is beautiful, exciting, challenging – and it is also just the start – ‘Draft One’. We do not represent everyone – we have not pulled on all the wisdom out there – this is the beginning. So join and help us make it better – make connections, overcome the fragmentation that hits both us and wildlife so hard – Download it, read it, share it – please.