Thursday 6 August 2020

Book Review: Our Place: Can We Save Britain's Wildlife Before It Is Too Late? by Mark Cocker

My much-thumbed copy, complete with coffee stains

Wildlife and conservation organisations have huge memberships. We are often described as a nation of animal lovers. Yet the natural world is in serious decline. Mark Cocker asks why this is and what can be done about in this important book.

Much of the book tells the story of organisations like the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts, campaigns successful and unsuccessful (especially Cow Green Reservoir and the Flow Country), plus the government bureaucracies set up to look after 'nature'. Small local successes exist but overall the story is of big failures. Too many committes, too much rivalry, too many acronyms, too many designations. And a big split, the 'Great Divide', between landscape conservation and nature protection, as if these were unconnected. But these organisations, however big, were unable to combat the devastation of the environment "largely through the instrument of farming and forestry policies".

The book isn't just a requiem for what is lost however. Mark Cocker looks at the core of the problems and the radical change in attitudes needed for change. "Ecological thinking entails that we see ourselves within nature, and that we understand everything we do has ecological consequences. We can, in truth, never escape nature." (Italics are the author's).

The tangle of designations, says Cocker, "have constructed a barrier to the general public's understanding of nature and of environmental activity". He calls for just one name. The same, he argues, applie to organisations. "The most important single measure to improve all environmental effort would be to forge genuine systemic unity among all parts" - an "NEU - National Environmentalists' Union".

This is a thought-provoking book packed with facts and ideas and well worth reading by anyone concerned with the future of nature in Britain, our future in fact.

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