Sunday, 23 September 2018

Post 490 - What a Wonderful Walk for Wildlife

Hi everyone.

Yesterday I had one of my best wildlife related experiences in a long time, probably ever. And it was in the centre of London! It was of course the #PeoplesWalkForWildlife initiated by Chris Packham who also developed a #PeoplesManifestoForWildlife to go along with it. I can't imagine the effort and energy that went into that but I am so grateful that Chris decided to develop both these ideas.

Dawn on the train.
My experience of the walk started well before the day, helping to spread the word about the walk and the dictionary of wildlife wonders that is yet to come. I did a couple of videos which I hope helped in making people aware of it. It all added to the anticipation of the day and the hope that we could really raise the profile of the plight of our wildlife. It was all about getting people to come together and say we want wildlife!
Nice to catch up with Lindsey

Well the day came. Dad and I started the day at about 5.15am in order to get the train to London. I love trains so this in itself was a treat. The journey for us was very straight forward, straight down the East Coast Mainline and we were treated to an incredible dawn, signalling to us what was going to be an awesome day. Not visiting London that often we decided to walk from Kings Cross to Hyde Park and arrived just before 10 to find there were already a good few people there! Almost straight away we started bumping into people we knew like Stewart Pike (@raptorwatcher), Alex White (@appletonwild) and Lindsey Chapman (nice to catch up with my fellow Wild Watch patron :-) .

It was pretty much a whirlwind from there on as we just kept bumping into people we knew, catching up and also seeing new faces and admiring some of the awesome costumes and artwork. I got to say hi to people who have been a great support on twitter like Caroline Lucas. One of the things that was great to see was the breadth of passionate people there. Young and old. People passionate about bats, trees, bees, seals, hen harriers, hares, owls, squirrels, butterflies, sparrows and flies (for @flygirlNHM :-). That was one of the powerful things about the day, every one there cared and was passionate about our wildlife and you could really feel it.

Lovely to meet Caroline
Then came the infotainment hour and we got to listen to inspiring songs and speeches from a range of people. It was great to see young conservationists alongside the more established campaigners. Mya-Rose Craig, Bella Lack, Georgia Lowcock, Dara McAnulty alongside people like Billy Bragg, Domonic Dyer and Ruth Tingay. We also had spells, words and poems from young people enthused by and passionate about nature. The crowd kept building, and despite it having rained everyone was enjoying the day and hearing from all the Ministers talking about their parts of the Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife.

On the walk the
The actual walk started a bit behind schedule and from where I was watching you could see the Police and others wanted to get us moving, but everyone was patient, polite and peaceful - Police and participants. The walk set off and one of the wonderful things about the day was that we'd been asked to download and play birdsong as we walked through the streets. A very poignant message to mark the millions of birds that have gone missing due to habitat loss, changes in farming practices and climate change etc. I wondered how that was going to work but it worked amazingly. The people watching the march looked on in amazement. The birdsong cut through the urban noise just as effectively than if we'd been shouting or chanting. I think it made people take more notice and I saw lots of people engaging the crowds and asking what we were doing. Some even joined in the walk.
At the gates of Downing Street ready to deliver the

The main walk ended at Whitehall where we had a few more speeches by some great people like George Monbiot, Kate Bradbury and Mark Avery. I say the main walk as there was a last leg to do.

Chris very much wanted young people to attend the walk and to engage in the activities like the Dictionary of Wildlife Wonders. For me this is important as we need more young people to value and cherish nature and the more young people see others taking an interest the better. I think it also sends a message to the politicians that the issues we raise about protecting and caring about nature won't go away. There are fresh generations of passionate, caring, committed conservationists coming forward to continue the fight for our wildlife!

At Number 10!
Photo credit /
To push home this point Chris asked a few young people to take the manifesto to Number 10,  I'm sure from the other young people I know that care, and from all of the young people I saw on the day we could have filled Downing Street with young conservationists, but only a small party was allowed and I was so honoured to be one of those asked. I proudly went to the steps of Number 10 and presented the manifesto to the PM's environmental advisor, John Randall. We also got to go into parliament and have a good discussion with him about our view on wildlife and what we need to do, especially to get more young people engaged.

Discussing environmental policy in Portcullis House
as you do - not my usual Saturday afternoon!
I left the discussion having had a wonderful day, meeting up with old friends and meeting some new ones. It was an inspiring and motivating day, one I shall remember for a very long time to come. It was a day though about saying caring about wildlife isn't enough, that we must do something, it is time to act for our wildlife before it is too late. That's not just a message for the politicians, that is a message for all of us. We can all do our part, in fact we must all do our part if we want to change the awful declines inflicted on so many species. My mind was certainly kept occupied on my train journey home thinking of things I can do to help.

A beautiful piece of writing that I often think about is by Chief Seattle (see this blog post for it all) which has a haunting end. It's from the nineteenth century but is just as relevant today and it reminds me of the need to keep fighting for our wildlife:

"Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of the god who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires.

Where is the thicket? Gone.

Where is the eagle? Gone.

The end of living and the beginning of survival."

Please read the Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife, be inspired, send it to your MP and do what you can to help our wildlife.

Click to go to the Manifesto page on Chris Packham's website