Wednesday, 8 July 2015

7 days not very wild - a summary of the problems

7 Days not very Wild - 1-7 July 2015

Trying to do something wild each day - but not easy when nature has been trashed

My idea is that sometimes even if we look for that great wild thing in nature, it can be hard to find because of all sorts of reasons mainly to do with humans destroying the world.

Having celebrated the nature we can find for 30 days, I wanted to highlight for 7 days the nature I couldn't find, sort of as a warning that things aren't just hunky dory.

This is a summary of the problems with nature that I highlighted, with the worst first:

Day 6 - What's wrong with supernoodles? This post highlighted how our consumption of palm oil in processed foods were fueling rainforest destruction in Asia.

For those who live outside the UK, this is a popular instant noodles

Ok, so what is wrong with Supernoodles?  For most teenagers, absolutely nothing!

So is it the Monosodium Glutamate?  The lack of nutrients? Yes, but no.

The second ingredient after noodles is palm oil.  This is a solid fat that I am sure is causing health problems.  It is the environment problems that I am really concerned about.

I feel lucky that I have travelled so widely and so it is important to me to share the knowledge I have gained and my world perspective.

At the  Focus on Nature (an organisation for young conservationists - AFON) Conference in September 2014, we were asked to write our Vision for Nature.  Whilst we were in Malaysia and Borneo in summer 2014, I was shocked at the extent of palm oil plantations.  Land is deforested to plant palm oil trees, which support virtually no wildlife.  At times we drove for hours, with nothing but palm oil plantations as far as we could see.  In the Kinabatangan River area, there were amazing forests full of wildlife on one side of the river and palm oil on the other side, with nothing.  It is a disaster happening around us right now.  It’s like 500 years of woodland loss here happening in 20 years there. 

Palm Oil Plantations, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Palm Oil Plantations, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

I think that being a conservationist goes hand in hand with being an activist. Chris Packham is a great role model.  He was fantastic going out to Malta and physically trying to stop the shooting, even getting arrested.  Maybe that’s what we should do more of here.  That’s why I like Greenpeace, because they put themselves out there. 

After the conference it made me wonder whether working in conservation made it difficult to be an eco-warrior.  Will someone who had been arrested for hunt sabbing find it harder to get a job?  

My vision for the future is that “all the palm oil plantations turn back into forest”.  It is a vision that can also be extended to bringing wildlife habitats back where they have been lost all over the world.  My vision is that we will not be afraid to fight for conservation and our environment.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Vision for the Future
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Day 7 - Rewilding the Mendips

The Mendip Hills are just a little way up the hill from us on the escarpment.  We call them the Mendips.  They are designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) including the area where we live in the Chew Valley.

I am due to start as Mendips Young Ranger in the autumn.

In the meantime, I can't but question what is being preserved in some of the area.

Mendips AONB
Photograph taken by Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

George Monbiot has talked a lot about rewilding.  Turning areas back to how they were.  Not 50 years ago in the case of the Mendips but what it was like 500 years ago, when much of it was probably covered in woods, which are now mainly left on the escarpment like Compton Woods next to us.

Feral by Geoge Monbiot
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

George Monbiot shows in his book Feral how by restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can bring wonder back into our lives.  He sets out a new positive environmental vision in which nature is allowed to find its own way.

His manifesto on rewilding is set out in:

What he concludes is:

"Through rewilding – the mass restoration of ecosystems – I see an opportunity to reverse the destruction of the natural world. Researching my book Feral, I came across rewilding programmes in several parts of Europe, including some (such asTrees for Life in Scotland and the Wales Wild Land Foundation) in the UK, which are beginning to show how swiftly nature responds when we stop trying to control it. Rewilding, in my view, should involve reintroducing missing animals and plants, taking down the fences, blocking the drainage ditches, culling a few particularly invasive exotic species but otherwise standing back. It's about abandoning the biblical doctrine of dominion which has governed our relationship with the natural world.

The only thing preventing a faster rewilding in the EU is public money. Farming is sustained on infertile land (by and large, the uplands) through taxpayers' munificence. Without our help, almost all hill farming would cease immediately. I'm not calling for that, but I do think it's time the farm subsidy system stopped forcing farmers to destroy wildlife. At the moment, to claim their single farm payments, farmers must prevent "the encroachment of unwanted vegetation on agricultural land". They don't have to produce anything: they merely have to keep the land in "agricultural condition", which means bare.

I propose two changes to the subsidy regime. The first is to cap the amount of land for which farmers can claim money at 100 hectares (250 acres). It's outrageous that the biggest farmers harvest millions every year from much poorer taxpayers, by dint of possessing so much land. A cap would give small farmers an advantage over large. The second is to remove the agricultural condition rule.

The effect of these changes would be to ensure that hill farmers with a powerful attachment to the land and its culture, language and traditions would still farm (and continue to reduce their income by keeping loss-making sheep and cattle).Absentee ranchers who are in it only for the subsidies would find that they were better off taking the money and allowing the land to rewild."

I think this applies perfectly to he Mendips.  The AONB ensures that the area is kept as it is now, barren.  We need to stop grazing sheep and let a large proportion of the area rewild, with woods and moorland.

This photograph shows how little nature is on much of the Mendips.

Mendips AONB
Photograph taken by Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 4 - A wildflower meadow cut

The wildflower meadow field  behind our house cut down in it's prime.  If we paid the farmer, would he leave it long and say know to the cattle that graze on it the rest of the summer?

I think this is a definite case for rewilding, letting it turn back to how it was naturally.

The field behind our house with the grass cut, Compton Martin, Bristol
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 2 - A graveyard free of any nature - this post was about the graveyard in my village being 'tidied up' so extremely there was no nature left in it.

On the way home from school, I stopped at Compton Martin Church to have a look for some wildlife.  When I went into the grave yard, at first glance it looked lovely and well kemp. Then I looked for some wildlife.  I was really quite shocked at what I found.

Grave Yard, Compton Martin Church, Compton Martin, Bristol
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Mya-Rose Craig

Day 3 - A dead Common Toad - this post was about trying to save our amphibians

A dead Common Toad, Compton Martin, Bristol
Photograph taken by Young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

During my 30 Days Wild, I wrote about a dead toad I had found in the road outside my house.  Although it is wildlife, the issues go much deeper than that.

It is really important that we all do what we can to help frogs and toads survive.  It is estimated that only 5 in every 1000 frog eggs survive to adulthood.  It is a terrible statistic.

As amphibians live in the water and land, they are a good indicator of the health of both habitats.  Their decline has raised concerns about habitats around the world.

All we have to do is make some changes to our gardens to encourage them back.  We need to add ponds and compost heaps to create a dragon garden.

Ponds need to be in a sunny position away from overhanging trees, include a shallow area, a section at least 60 cm deep,  no paving slabs around it, use water from a water butt to fill and use only native plants which are floating, submerges and marginals.

Introduce a wild rockery, a log pile and vegetation of differing heights and weight for the amphibians to come to you. Check long grass before you cut it.

Day 5 - A lost baby bird - this post was about the impact of our pet cats on nature and what can be done to reduce numbers

Sunday lunch time a friend of my mum Sherry got in touch. Her son Tye and his girlfriend had been looking after a House Martin chick that had fallen out of it's nest at her house in another village in the Chew Valley.

They had some nests by their roof but nowhere they could reach.  The chick had been on the patio.  Nature would have allowed for this kind of thing to happen with the parent seeing the chick, picking it up and returning it to the nest. However, this is not just not possible.  With the number of domestic cats around, the chick would not have stood a chance even for half an hour.

Chicks this young are unlikely to survive.  Even if we can keep it alive until it fledges, what then? They are still fed by the parents after they fledge.

So that is my issue impacting wildlife for day 5 which causes big problems for all kinds of wildlife, domestic cats.  Not happy with breeding and increasing our own numbers to the extent that the earth can not support us, we keep huge numbers of predators as pets as well.

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig feeding a rescued House Martin chick
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Day 1 - A dead Carrion Crow, killed on our electricity wires

Today I saw a dead Carrion Crow at the bottom of the field on the way home. I wondered how it had died.  Had someone killed it?  It looked perfect apart from damaged feathers on one side.  Needless to say, I got a big stick and poked it to see what happened.  The inside seemed to have been eaten by the maggots all over it.  Then I looked up and noticed the electricity wire above it.  Had it flown into the wires and died?

Dead Carrion Crown, Compton Martin, Bristol
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Crag

We all need to do hat we can to save and promote nature by small steps like signing petitions, writing to organisations and companies and telling people about what is wrong.

About the Writer

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig 

Mya-Rose Craig is a 12 year old young birder, conservationist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She is looking forward to going Mountain Gorilla Trekking in East Africa in the summer and watching Penguins in Antarctica in December 2015, which will be her 7th continent. She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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