Last weekend I was in Edinburgh to give the keynote speech at the AGM of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. I’ll spare you the whole thing — it went on quite a bit — but here’s the general idea.
Conservation badly needs a boost up the political agenda, because most people in positions of power are far too busy and important to be worried by trivial things like the future of the planet. And I have hopes that this could happen by means of an alliance between hen harriers and bumblebees. Between them they supply a potent mixture of anger and worry.
There is room for 300 pairs of hen harriers in England (Defra figures) and in 2013, precisely none managed to breed. This year we were up to a dizzying total of four. This shortage of hen harriers has come about because they are systematically and illegally killed to protect the interests of the grouse-shooting industry.
Anger at this is spreading beyond the usual conservation organisations. People are asking: whose countryside is it anyway? Do we all have a share? Or is it just for the fun of a few very rich men?
Meanwhile, a YouGov poll found that the shortage of bees was the most worrying environmental issue that confronted the people of this country. We are deeply disturbed by the idea of a world without bees — it would mean that the globe’s stopped working, nothing less. People are beginning to realise that we really should be running our planet a bit better.
It’s my hope that this combination of anger and worry will force people in power to take environmental issues more seriously. Thus a small, specialised organisation, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, finds itself dealing with issues right on the cutting edge. It’s a huge task they’re lumbered with: a huge opportunity to change the way we think about the world we live in.