Will the 200 ways to save British wildlife (Chris Packham, 19 September) really make a difference? Having spent my working career in agriculture, as both a field adviser and in Whitehall, and having also chaired one of the Wildlife Trusts, I struggle as to how we can make a significant difference.
The systems and technologies that we (society as a whole) have developed over the last 70 years are well embedded and were initiated by the 1947 Agriculture Act, and have resulted in the wildlife losses referred to in the article. All the ideas and policies being put forward now are almost literally tinkering around the edges and often antagonise those trying to make a living from farming. We depend on them for much of our food, and they also have the most impact on those green spaces we need for healthy living. This may become even harder after Brexit. With around 70% of land under these farming systems we need a much more radical and constructive approach to solving the issue collectively.
So how do we change those systems and what technologies and innovations do we need to reverse the process? In the farming context we need new collaborative partnerships between all involved in agriculture and food supply along with the many professional and voluntary specialists associated with wildlife conservation and the underpinning biological sciences. These need to come up with revised versions of what the last 70 years have produced.
The good news is that there are already many ideas and practices now being developed on farms and in research centres that can supply food profitably, and still continue to provide the healthy food and environments we all need.
But we must help to expand this work rapidly; to change attitudes and lifestyles; and above all to persuade our politicians that this is a vital public good that requires pump-priming funding – just as the 1947 act boosted food production after the last world war. The recently published agriculture bill looks a very weak version of that.