Nature's New Year of Challenges....

It feels like daunting times for nature as we march into 2016. It faces many many challenges in the UK. I like to try and be positive in life, but at the moment I see little joy in the big issues ahead.

The recent flooding will have great impacts to wildlife, not only in the immediate after effects suffered by the animals living in the flooded regions, but also in the likely outcomes of the resulting dredging and concrete defences I fear are likely to be instructed by the current government.

The politicians seem blind to environmentalists call for a more thoughtful approach to upland management, despite the fact that creating natural barriers, a porous landscape filled with trees and bogs, and allowing flood plains to operate naturally, can reduce water levels down stream by a considerable degree, enough to prevent the over topping of current defences.

None of this seems to figure on what we hear from Ministers or indeed the one group of land owners who could really make a difference - those members of the NFU. 

Dredging and clearing rivers will be a disaster for the communities flooded and for the wildlife that lives in them. Lets re-wild our uplands, lets allow farmers flood plains to operate as just that. Let's help nature help us.

I don't like the way the badger cull seems to march on either. It will be expanding across England despite every creditable source pronouncing it unfair, unscientific and ultimately ineffective.

Once again the finger points to a government that is looking for short term fixes that appease the votes of the land owning community. How people working on the cull, from those in the offices pushing the papers to the shooters out at night, can honestly believe in what they are doing i don't know. This new year, for them, should be made as difficult and uncomfortable as possible by those passionate about a fair deal for nature in this country. The Badger cull above all seems to sum up this governments ideals on the relationship it has with wildlife.

With new marine conservation zones on the agenda you might hope that things may be looking up for the marine environment? Best stay off twitter at the moment then as you see images of hundreds of pink bottles full of bleach being washed up on the coast of the West Country. Marine conservation zones are an important step but plastic pollution is a global threat we must do more to tackle.

Hats off to Obama in the US who has got micro-plastics banned this week. When will our government do the same?

I looked down a microscope at a plankton research laboratory last year and saw the micro plastics sitting amongst the plankton. Invisible to the naked eye this plastic plankton will be being eaten by fish, and eaten by us. If we can't persuade the public to care about the wildlife it effects, perhaps they will care more about themselves and ask for micro plastics to be banned. Who knows what havoc the plastics will be playing with our bodies. 

The amount of building currently underway in this country also scares me. We are constantly told we need more homes - but who for? There are no new jobs to attract all the people to live in these new homes I am seeing built in my part of the word. 

The only people i know buying houses are wealthy middle class people buying second and third properties to have as investment properties to rent out. You might say thats because I only know wealthy middle class people. Perhaps, but I also meet many young people who say they just can't afford them. Why are we building so many new homes in unsuitable places? Because the government has an economy that relies on housebuilding? Build them, employ people to build them, who cares who buys them. Many new homes around me are empty. They need to build in cities not in the countryside.

However, London is where endless far east investors buy up new flats as investments. As people are pushed out of London then perhaps they will need houses elsewhere - driving building on greenbelt. And adding to carbon footprint as these people then commute back into London every day. If they are lucky they will be able to buy one of these commuter houses, but more likely rent. Things seem wrong with housing to me, very wrong, and nature will be the one to pay.

If this country started making things again other than houses, perhaps we wouldn't rely on housing industry to keep our economy going and we can stop building on every last bit of green space available. I know little about these things and should probably keep my gob shut, but I'd love to see an inner city solution to what seems a city based problem. No doubt people can educate me otherwise and I will gladly listen.

I could just go on and on really about the threats nature faces. Terrible isn't it. But if I didn't believe things can be changed, well then I wouldn't bother doing what I do.

Yet having said that, when do I ever get to rant about any of this on TV? Never. Our natural history television could be much more aggressive in its defence of nature. The trouble is that so much of UK wildlife is on the BBC and the likes of Springwatch have their hands tied by the BBC Controllers fear of upsetting politicians who hold an axe over their license fee funded heads. Really, BBC wildlife programmes can do little more than nod their head at such issues and give balanced discussion. They are not places to crusade.

For years I've gone along with this stuff because its my job, but I find it increasingly frustrating that the only place to air concerns is on the web. We need to be making hard hitting programs about these issues, how they effect nature, how they effect us. Sadly, I think that this is one 2016 nature challenge too far for the channels I work with, but i will darn well give it go.