On a rainy, overcast day in London Hyde park on the 22nd of October, up to ten thousand people petitioned the government to adopt an important and possibly vital document: The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife. In the most nature depleted country in Europe, that has long since lagged behind the rest of the world in sound environmental policy, many people decided they had had enough. With the People’s Walk for Wildlife organised by Chris Packman they made their grievances, and that of the nation’s wildlife, known.
The March made its way from Hyde park to Downing Street, filled with an array of conservationists, scientists and concerned citizens. With many children and teenagers in attendance, such as the young activist Dara McAnulty, the issues raised took on a cross-generational perspective. The colourful costumes, placards and attending speakers all attest to a great passion for nature. Perhaps the most obvious and peculiar way this manifested was the sound of thousands of digitally broadcast birdcalls that emanated in the place of chants, a beautiful and forlorn dirge to the bygone diversity of Britain’s Aves.
Whilst there were many differing motivations for the attendees, from the plight of bats to the damages of industrial farming, the guiding tome of the walk was the Manifesto. The Manifesto is a collaborative effort between Chris Packman and thirty-two other well-known and respected conservationists, activists and scientists such as George Monbiot, Dr Amy-Jane Beer and Miles King.
The document is extensive, detailed and thoroughly researched, with each issue-specific section (called ministries) written by an author well versed in the subject. Although thoroughly political, and according to one of its authors ‘radical’, it has no party affiliations and takes a more broadly critical approach of the governments ecological policy in general, rather than adopting a party partisan ‘lesser-evil’ approach.
The intention of the manifesto is to create a civil ministry, outside of the whims of temporary party control, to ensure the health, diversity, and engagement of British wildlife. Conceptually it considers Britain’s wildlife and environment as integral to the nation, and thus its demands to create a new civil ministry immune to political pressures are soundly justified. It makes special note of the antithesis of business lobbying to the hypothetical ministry, and calls for an outright ban on such practises.
This is a poignant addition, considering the recent revelation that big-business think tanks are actively importing American style climate change denial to the UK, with false data to boot. The manifesto prides itself on its scientifically backed solutions, and rightly so. Each ministry has ten ‘commandments’ composed of its most important and relevant issues, each written and tailored by experts who draw on volumes of data, both personally studied and from the greater scientific community.
The manifesto composes two twinned documents, the first is abridged, easily read, beautifully illustrated and to the point, with a sister document containing the volumes of scientific data and exhaustive details that accompany all the points of the original. Both are open source and easily accessed.
The document is however, acknowledged by the authors to not be enough on its own, and this is by design. The People’s Walk for Wildlife is the first step in this, a mass show of support for the points raised; and a demonstration that there is public will to back them. The Manifesto itself is styled as incomplete, and with intent to grow as it gathers more support and knowledge of solutions to the broad range of issues it seeks to solve. There is an air of restless energy in the manifesto and those talking about it, an indication that this is merely the beginning of a broader movement; a reinvigoration of the environmentalism and a cry to all who care that there is a will and a possibility for a richer and more diverse natural world.
Yet the manifesto is young (published 19th September 2018), and many questions about its future, and the public will it represents, are in need of answering. Does its radical program provide the solutions we need? Is it too radical for the electorate? Or, equally so, is it not radical enough? Only time will tell, but the passion it expresses for the natural world is a heartening bulwark against the uncomfortable realities of climate change and, in the startling words of its chief author,‘Ecological Apocalypse’.