The Birds and The Bees (and The Snails)
My second son, Jimmy, had his first birthday on Friday, so I had my mother over from Belfast for a long weekend to celebrate. We’d spent the weekend in the house, so yesterday I took her and both boys to Washington Wildfowl and Wetland Trust to do a bit of birdwatching, birdfeeding and cake eating. And fantastic it was too, with a wonderful backdrop of autumnal colours spectacularly lit by the low sun.
I’m a huge fan of conservation. In fact about 13 years ago, I got fed up with the sanctimony of much of the green activist movement and started volunteering with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. I planted hundreds of trees, laid hedges and dug several ponds – and doing something practical rather than finger pointing was so much more satisfying.
Conservation and its close cousin biodiversity have been much of the news of late with the UN Convention on Biodiversity meeting in Japan agreeing a 20 point plan to protect species on earth. But you don’t have to try and save the rainforest to do your bit to protect biodiversity – you can start literally at home, or in the workplace. Here’s some examples:
- EAE Ltd in Edinburgh have a nature area in a grassy verge barely 3m wide around their site – and you could tell the difference from the sterility of the rest of the business park where they are situated from the bird song alone;
- Fenwicks department store in the centre of Newcastle has bee hives on the roof;
- Northumbrian Water have been working to protect the round-mouthed whorl snail – the size of a full stop and only found in one place in the world in County Durham;
- The chemical industry on Teesside set up the Industry and Nature Conservation Association (INCA) to roll back decades of ecological destruction around the river Tees in general and the Seal Sands estuary in particular – they now have a colony of 70 seals living happily in the shadow of the chemical plants.
While much of our industrial sustainability efforts are focussed on global/regional issues like climate change or acid rain (which have a massive impact on biodiversity), there is much to be said for this kind of very local effort. It engages employees and local people in environmental issues, it provides an opportunity to get up close and personal with nature, it generates lots of goodwill and, not least, it provides a engagement mechanism for those big issues which can often seem distant.
So don’t forget about the birds, bees or indeed the round-mouthed whorl snail.