The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

There’s only one programme this time of year which truly captures the changes in our seasons, whilst showing the affects it has on our wildlife - it is, of course, Autumnwatch!

Many look forward to seeing Chris Packham and the team broadcast live from a stunning UK location, and finding out what our wildlife is up to and the challenges our creatures face.  So, when I tuned in to see our countryside at its most spectacular, I didn’t expect to see them in New England celebrating the fall (autumn in North America) – moose instead of stags and racoons instead of badgers! Especially after Chris had spent his summer leading what, at least to me, felt like the start of a “Natural Revolution” to end the “War on Wildlife.”

Many welcomed the change of scenery, others took to social media in outrage, whilst I wondered why the BBC would move people’s attention from British wildlife at the time our wildlife needs us most.  A time when 56% of our UK species have declined since the 1970s, 15% are faced with extinction, our environmental legislations are up in the Brexit smoke, and a new Environmental Bill is being put together by (the ground tremors) Michael Gove.  The environmental secretary who has just brought back fracking and extended the badger cull - the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory!

After discussing Autumnwatch with colleagues, friends and family, some who watch the show, I realised if there was a Natural Revolution led by Chris Packham - it was a very quiet one, and one which had certainly not been televised!  The most common question was “what is wrong with our wildlife?” and no-one I spoke to knew what Chris had been up to over summer, some didn’t even know who he was.  It did raise my own question – are the people who know what is wrong only really preaching to the converted? 

Last month 10,000 plus people, including Billy Bragg (my favourite protest singer) and Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s own Chief Executive, Mike Pratt, marched through the streets of London - to raise awareness of the loss (sorry, destruction) of Britain’s wildlife.  ‘The People’s Walk for Wildlife’ ended in Downing Street with the delivery of ‘A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife’ to our Government.  You can read Mike’s blog about it here.

Conceived by Chris, with the input of 18 wildlife experts, the manifesto outlines the critical concerns affecting our UK landscape and species and proposes 200 solutions to revert the damage.  It does what is says - it is bold, brave and honest.  It has a no party-political bias, has not been influenced or funded by any vested groups and shows the full, very political, picture of what has happened to our wildlife.  I’m sure the shocking facts included will come as breaking news to many.

So, what has Michael Gove said after receiving such an extensive body of research and solutions at the time when he needs those the most?  He has said nothing so far - only that he will consider it in depth …

As for the largest protest walk for wildlife in most people’s lifetime - well it didn’t even make the BBC news.

As a public service organisation, surely the BBC has a responsibility to put informing people about “what is wrong with our wildlife” and nature high on their agenda? Especially as without nature we have no clean air, food or water!  The BBC should not underestimate how many people want to know the answer.  Who would have thought the BBC’s Blue Planet II would attract more viewers than any other programme last year and create such an outrage over plastic pollution?  People need to know what is also happening on our land, including how our soils are also polluting our seas.

An Ofcom report published this week states the BBC must go further in areas such as transparency and attracting young people.  On average, UK adults spend 2 hours 44 minutes with the BBC per day (across all devices) and people aged 16-34 spend 1hr 19 minutes - half the amount of time adults spend.  Yet, this doesn’t mean they are accessing less news, just that they are not turning to the BBC for it.  It also doesn’t mean they care less about the environment as extensive research shows environmental issues are top of their agenda and influencing their political vote. 

This month the UN warned us that we have 12 years to limit the climate change catastrophe.  Pretty major news.  Perhaps the Government didn’t get the memo as The Budget 2018, just announced, contains no reference to climate change and the £60m pledge to plant trees is polluted by the 30bn road spending plan.

The Government’s commitment to grey over green infrastructure also coincided with the report from WWF that announced a 60% decline in animal populations worldwide since 1970 and called on a “global deal” from world leaders to save our nature and planet. 

To hear that the BBC have recently pledged to talk about climate change on two of its programmes once a week (Radio 4 and World Service) certainly seems like they haven’t quite got the scale of this news either – and how many young people will be tuning in for that?  Perhaps more worrying is that the BBC admitted its coverage of climate change was “wrong too often” in a statement which hit the news this month.

A previous report from Ofcom in 2017 stated, whilst television is still the most used platform for news for adults (79%), followed by the Internet (64%), the most used platform for news among 16-24-year olds is the Internet at 84%, with social media being the most popular type of online news.

The way we are accessing news has changed and the move to the Internet and social media means we are (thankfully) looking more for the answers to our own questions.  So, when we want to know “what is wrong with our wildlife”, instead of waiting for the BBC or the television to provide us with an answer (which we hope is transparent), we can use other mediums such as following the environmental experts on Twitter to hear what they have to say, just as Chris turned to them when compiling the manifesto.

Yet, the manifesto, which you can download here, was just the start of the campaign.  The purpose of ‘The People’s Walk for Wildlife’ was also to unite people and organisations, to make our voices louder and stronger so together we can reach more than the converted. 

Greener UK, a new coalition of 13 environmental organisations with a combined public membership of 7.9 million, are now putting forward their suggestions and campaigns to the people and the Government to help try and ensure we have an Environment Act to secure the “Green Future” we’ve been promised. 

The Wildlife Trusts are proud to be a part of the new movement and are preparing to launch ‘Wilder Future’ their new campaign.  Northumberland Wildlife Trust, as one of 46 Wildlife Trusts, will be calling on your support and action.      

The Natural Revolution may not be televised but it is on social media and that’s where we must be now to spread the word to others!