On 22nd September we went up to London for the People’s Walk for Wildlife – organised by Chris Packham, the march included a load of his wildlife friends as well as 10,000 ordinary people who care about wildlife. It was a rather grey, wet day but the mood was optimistic and as with all coming-together events, solidarity and a common cause is more than enough. I’d made myself a banner the day before, which I was mightily embarrassed to get out (turns out my grand vision of what to decorate it with was rather hard to pull off with cheap paint on cheap cotton fabric!) but I was glad I’d made the effort.
(By the way, please keep reading or scroll down for the important bit – writing to your MP!)
The event started with an hour or so of short speeches by some of the people Chris Packham had designated his ‘Ministers’ – each Minister was the spokesperson for a different topic, such as farming, education, culture, hunting and diversity. The speeches were really varied and short, giving a great overview of the complexity in caring for our environment. As well as experts and conservationists with years of experience, there were a good number of young voices, speaking for the next generation. The last speech by 15 year old Bella Lack pretty much reduced the crowd to tears. We then set off to march to Downing Street (the rain temporarily stopped, much appreciated) through the streets of London, and it was at this point we could really see how many people were marching, we couldn’t see the front or back of the crowd! At Downing Street, we had a few more speeches (including an impassioned one from George Monbiot, hero) then Chris and a few others delivered the Manifesto to No. 10.
If you haven’t had a look for yourself yet, please do read the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife on Chris Packham’s website. Its quite a read, but its broken up into really short, neat sections with tonnes of specific actions that we as individuals can take or lobby government and corporations to take action on.
Oh, and final claim to fame – our faces and my terrible homemade banner were the summary feature of the march in The Guardian’s Week in Wildlife. Haha!
WRITE TO YOUR MP!
This is the bit that can make a difference – putting pressure on government to sit up and take notice. Its super easy to write to your local MP, heres how:
1. Find out the name and email address of your local MP here (follow the link)
2. Write your email – this is the first time I’ve done this so I did look up a bit of advice (see also Mark Avery’s letter). General advice seems to be:
* Be clear and specific in what you are asking your MP to do, they get a lot of emails! Get straight to the point too.
* Make it personal to you and your area (they are your local MP after all), be passionate
* Clear links to relevant science or evidence, if relevant
* It doesn’t hurt to mention elections and how you might vote, apparently thats what they care about mostly
* Include your address somewhere so they know you are in their constituency
3. Send email, and maybe get a reply… or maybe not! (I still haven’t heard anything from mine…)
Here is the email I sent to my MP, in case it helps give you some encouragement or ideas of what to write. PLEASE WRITE, IT WOULD MAKE SUCH A DIFFERENCE IF WE ALL DID IT!
Dear Gillian Keegan MP,
On Saturday 22nd September we joined 10,000 other people on the rainy streets of London for the Peoples Walk for Wildlife, to give nature a voice. It was an incredible day, full of impassioned, hard-working scientists, conservationists, famers and young people who are already working to try and ensure our natural environment is in a better state tomorrow than it is today.
Sadly there were no Conservative MPs present at the walk, and it was a huge disappointment that Michael Gove decided last minute he was unable to meet Chris Packham to discuss the issues. Therefore I am writing to urge you to read the Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife document which was produced to support the walk, and which hopefully by now you will have received a copy of. You can view it online here: http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Peoples-Manifesto-Download.pdf
Two areas are particularly important to me:
1. Farming – I live in an area surrounded by large-scale farming, but the current system is trashing our countryside and making a mockery of any small scale conservation efforts. Wildlife shouldn’t just thrive in nature reserves, it should be everywhere. We need to support farmers and reward them for encouraging wildlife – which in turn controls pests, prevents flooding, improves soil fertility, enables pollination… the list is endless. Please do read the section on farming.
2. Nature in the national curriculum – It just must be included in Section 78 of the Education Act, there is simply no excuse, we must engage our future generations with the natural world. We are not separate from nature, it is not a luxury for the few – we are part of the natural environment, and learning about it in all its forms and the services it does for us is so essential for our future.
So I urge you to give the Manifesto some of your time. The Conservative Party’s election manifesto was incredibly weak on wildlife and nature conservation in 2017 – you need to take on board some of these ideas if you are to deserve greater public support, especially with so much political turmoil and change on the horizon. I was very disappointed to see no Conservative MPs at the Walk for Wildlife, and so would be keen to hear your thoughts on the areas where you think we can take action.