Amy Jane Beer is a Nature Writer, Diarist and Blogger with regular pieces in the Guardian Country Diary and multiple books to her name. She was Minister for Social Equality and Access to Nature in Chris Packham’s People’s Manifesto for Wildlife 2018, which seemed a good fit for TCV Hollybush. She was the main speaker at the book launch and interviewed Giles & Jessica and then Liz and Lisa. What follows is a transcript of her address.
A real privilege to be invited to come along today, I was nine in 1979 when you took over at Hollybush, which means I am going to be 50 this year, which has come as something of a shock, it has sort of snuck up on me. In that 50 years that I have been on the planet, things have changed, things have changed drastically, there are fewer than half as many wild vertebrates living on the planet now than when I was born, that brings a certain amount of responsibility. I don’t think I’m personally responsible but I am part of a society that has allowed this to happen on our watch and we need to do something about it.
My son is now nine, the age I was when you started out, and I do fear for his future and what he is going to have to face, what we are all going to have to face in the next few years. Nine years isn’t very long, nine or ten years is what we have got according to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to deal with a lot of the problems that have got us into the situation we are in. We know what we need to do in terms of addressing climate change, it actually isn’t that difficult, it isn’t rocket science, we know what needs to be done. It is just the will lacking, political will mainly, and that is a worry, but organisations like TCV do give me huge hope, because I feel this is the time for grassroots action, and that is something that you have been doing for decades and decades, but the time has come for people to take matters into their own hands and it almost doesn’t matter at what level you do it. Yes we all have the responsibility to make the right personal choices but it isn’t just about trying to do the right thing ourselves, but we have to shout a bit louder and make sure that the powers that be understand what they need to do, the responsibilities they need to take as well.
Nature is our ally in the battle we’ve got coming up and we have kind of neglected that fact recently. A huge amount of the problems we face can be addressed by recognising nature as our ally and allowing her to help get us out of this situation. In terms of the climate crisis allowing nature to reclaim areas of land is the best, the fastest, the cheapest and the effective way to lock up carbon for example, or for storing large amounts of water so that it is not rushing through our towns and our settlements causing economic chaos and awful personal trauma for the people who are suffering from floods. The rewilding movement gives me huge amounts of hope, there is so much that can be done if we just allow nature to help us, by helping her. Rewilding is about many things, it is about natural climate solutions, it is about biodiversity, it about soil regeneration but it is also about people; it is not just land that needs rewilding, it is us. As a species we have kind have forgotten where we came from and spending time in nature and connecting with nature it doesn’t almost matter what you are doing out there, it does create connections, we gain connections in our brain when we learn a new skill or have a new experience; we reinforce the connections between us and nature. Within an organisation like this, and it is very obvious from having read the book and chatted with a few of you earlier today, it is the connections between people, they matter just as much. The sense of community that is radiating out of this book is absolutely wonderful.
I’ve been involved a couple of years ago, I contributed to the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife, which was a document commissioned by Chris Packham as part of the People’s Walk for Wildlife that he set up; huge numbers of people gathered in Hyde Park and walked to Downing Street and presented the manifesto. This manifesto was written by twenty conservationists with two hundred recommendations for no brainer actions that could be taken that would make a difference almost immediately for the future of nature in this country. My area was Social Inclusivity and access to Nature, I was thinking a lot about access to nature and diversity and one of the fantastic things I’ve seen in the book already is the diversity that you have embraced right from the very start. The range of ages, abilities and social backgrounds that have been involved in this project and that is how it should be, It should be for everyone, because we need everyone’s voice, we have to take all of society with us and have all of them speaking out on behalf of Nature. We need their voices, we need their votes, we need them to think about how they spend every pound because that is how things change. Wanting it to change isn’t enough, but thinking about the way you use your voice, your vote and your spending power does make a difference.
That is enough from me, congratulations on your forty years.