The Environment Secretary drained the glass, and drowsily leaned back in the ministerial chair. Whilst doing so a vision appeared of wildlife as it used to be. Meadows filled with flowers, attended by butterflies, bees and all manner of other insects. Birdsong poured out from every woodland, copse and hedgerow, fish sheltered amongst the roots of riverside trees, seeking food whilst avoiding being themselves the food of otters. The ghost of wildlife past.
The scene changed to wildlife as it is. Decades of decline punctuated by occasional successes. These successes made more obvious against the background of shrinking forests and wetlands, paving over of suburban gardens, road building, pollution, whole ecosystems disrupted. That wasn’t all: the seas filling with plastic, whales still being hunted, coral reefs disappearing, and the seabed being sterilised by trawling. All of this neglect and damage reducing the numbers of creatures by about half in the last 50 or 60 years. The ghost of wildlife present.
The Secretary was awoken from this reverie by a knock on the door. ‘Bah, humbug!’ was the response, ‘pesky carol singers I suppose’. Outside there was indeed a group of people, not carol singers. but representatives of thousands of others, including all the major nature conservation organisations. ‘Environment Secretary’ they said, ‘here is a petition signed by thousands of people asking you to keep your promise, and in 2019 bring a strong and effective Environment Act to Parliament. This will implement your 25-year Environment Plan and make your nomination of 2019 as the Year of Green Action meaningful.’
The Secretary’s face broke into a broad grin, of course here was the answer to the troubling dream. The petitioners were invited in and treated to mince pies and mulled wine. The Secretary listened to all that they had to say, busily scribbling notes to take to the drafters of the bill in the new year. The ghost of wildlife future.
Just a fairy story - or is it? The current Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has it in his power to make this come true. Next year is indeed ‘the Year of Green Action’ and the 25-year Environment Plan has been published. If we all press our MPs to challenge him on this there may indeed be some real action to begin to address the crisis the natural world is in.