It’s a New Year and a new decade – and I’m determined to be optimistic! Yes, things look pretty bad if you’re someone concerned about what we are doing to our planet. But the alternatives to being optimistic seem even bleaker. So 2020 and the decade to come is, I’m confident, going to be the one when we finally wake up and DO SOMETHING.
Yes, there are still reasons to be pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) but that, on its own, won’t achieve anything. So what’s good?
Well, one common thread through all the good things that are happening is that Nature is a much tougher cookie than we may give it credit. Leave it alone and it bounces back very promptly. Sure, we can’t leave it too late to save a particular species but projects around the world have demonstrated what can be done when we set our minds to it.
Close to home we have otters now back in every British county. The Bittern, a wetland bird that was close to the end of its days as a breeding bird in Britain 20 years ago, is now back to hopefully sustainable numbers and extending its range. The Large Blue Butterfly was extinct in Britain but, with reintroductions and careful habitat managements, has a much rosier future here now. And, of course, we have our Red Kites to show just how successful a species can be if you remove the threats it previously faced.
Communities across the country are ‘rewilding’ their roadside verges and our own Borough is now starting on a programme to do this. Behind that we now have a local Environment and Climate Emergency declared which will, with the right level of commitment, focus attention on a whole range of local possibilities.
And, here in Cookham, we now have 100 gardens signed up to our Wild About Gardens Awards with some really exciting ideas being developed for this for the coming year. The much-publicised success of the Knepp rewilding in Sussex (read the book here) is giving encouragement to communities and individuals across the land and we have our own Harris Woodbridge Reserve to show that simple acts can make a difference. In our first year there we saw frogs returning to the little pond there as well as dragonflies breeding. The National Trust is taking action to improve the biodiversity of our local Commons and WildCookham is playing its part: we hope to see the results of the labours of volunteers in the coming summer. The John Lewis Partnership is now actively engaged with us in Cookham and we are talking to the Institute of Marketing at Moor Hall about how we can work together.
Perhaps best of all there are now around 400 people locally who have shown their interest in WildCookham as followers on Facebook and by joining our mailing list. And many are volunteering to get actively involved, to make a practical difference to their community.
The big decisions about the future of our planet need to be taken at a global level, but we are making a difference in our backyards. If I – and you and you and … - take some action to improve our local world, our local habitats, that’s not only going to make a difference here in Cookham, in Maidenhead; it’s going to help other people to get involved. And the more involved we are, the more aware we become, the more our views are changed – and that percolates up in the way we vote, the way we talk to our family, our neighbours, our work colleagues. And that way we make a difference, on the ground (literally) but also within our democracy.
If you want to find out what WildCookham is going to do in your backyard this year come to our 2020 Kickoff meeting on 31st January (see here). And get involved.