Best-selling British natural history writer, Dominic Couzens reviews his latest book, Save Our Species. Although his writing is rooted in the state of nature in the UK, what Couzens talks about is universally relevant. The action we need to take to save our country’s native species is something we all have in common.
When you look at the state of nature in Britain, as in many other parts of the world, one thing is for sure – our species need saving!
Rampant development, intensive farming, the plundering of the seas, political indifference… There is a toxic cloud of issues that, over the years, has plunged Britain in particular towards the very bottom of the global biodiversity index. We are one of the most nature-depleted countries on earth, but we are not alone.
Photo credit: Steve Race Puffin, Yorkshire Coast Nature
Can Anything be Done for Nature?
At first sight, the position of our natural world would seem to be a deeply troubling, even depressing, state of affairs. But as this book reveals, the sad statistics are only a part of the story. In reality, there is a great deal that we can all do to help nature. Not only do we in Britain have a proud tradition of conservation, but we also have a growing army of people who care about nature. And we are not the only country to have this. While you might think we can’t have much of an effect on our own, in combination we can change things for the better, enormously.
Save Our Species tells the story of 30 species that have suffered from large losses in Britain. The accounts are as varied as the species themselves, and what is said about them can easily be applied to similar species around the world. From the plight of an obscure spider in the county of Devon to the famous countrywide tussle of the squirrel species. And from the disappearance of a plant that makes Europeans swoon, to the underwater fate of a Sea-fan. And while almost everybody knows that bees are disappearing, not everyone realises that eels are slipping away.
The stories range from the fate of the Wildcat in the remote Scottish Highlands to the fight for the Stag Beetle in southern England. They cover most of the main conservation issues of the day such as farming practices, grouse shooting, and the state of our seas.
Photo Credit: Ruth Miller, Black Guillemot, Birdwatching Trips
The Positive Moves to Save our Species
For every one of these 30 species, the cavalry is coming to the rescue, albeit in many different ways and with different likely outcomes. The future still looks grave for the Turtle Dove in the UK, but the outlook for the Large Blue butterfly is distinctly sunny. Nevertheless, in every instance, people are doing something. And in every instance, you and I can do something, too.
The second part of the book details the ways in which everyone can make a difference. You can click a mouse to contribute money to conservation projects or sign an online petition. You could spend a couple of hours helping to keep a beach clean. Or how about planting moth-friendly flowers? There are many fantastic ways to help nature, from something very easy to something involving sweat and grind. Every small step for nature might seem exactly that – small – but a wave is made up of many, many drops in the ocean. And waves are what we can and need to make.
Photo credit: Steve Race, Grey Seal, Yorkshire Coast Nature
Making Simple Changes
One of the surprising facts about modern conservation is, if we are fortunate to own a garden or have reasonable access to a shared open space, we can make a significant difference. Britain’s declining species include some garden staples such as Slow Worms and moth species. Simple animals such as Frogs and Toads, Hedgehogs and bats, as well as the bees. It is amazing how much difference it makes for us if we look after our gardens in a wildlife-friendly manner. For instance, eliminating as many chemicals as possible, mowing the grass less (heaven!), planting well. Leaving intentionally neglected corners is another thing. These are easy changes to make.
Conservation-minded people must also become warriors. There are some enemies to wildlife that could and should be defeated. Enemies such as artificial grass, roadside verges being sprayed with weed killer, the curse of “tidying” up to nature. If enough people get angry enough – with keyboards if nothing else – we can win these battles.
Photo credit: Steve Race, duke burgundy, Yorkshire Coast Nature
Putting Conservation on the Agenda
It is remarkable how many ways we can contribute to a better world for our wildlife. One of the most important is the old-fashioned way, by contacting the local or national government. Decision-makers are humans and respond to the right combination of good manners and persistence. Social media is a wonderful and positive tool in nature conservation weaponry.
Writing this book, it was hard not to feel a change in the air. For many years, people in power have either ignored conservation or their attention has been grabbed by those who seek to plunder it. The wriggle room for these people is lessening. Little by little (probably too slowly for many) it is becoming less acceptable to kick environmental issues into the long grass.
The day is coming when, with a fair wind, we can indeed save our species, in Britain and around the world.
Dominic Couzens is a British birder, author, and journalist specialising in avian and natural history subjects. His latest book, Save Our Species, is available internationally from Wild Sounds & Books and Amazon UK, and in the UK from The Hive.
Original Date of Publish: 23 April, 2021