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Wildlife Files - Discovery Part One



Where have All the Birds Gone?

Wild bird population in the UK down more than 65% in 30 years. A third of Britain's native mammals also in steep decline.

In 1996 an environmental report was released on the "indirect" effects of pesticides on British bird life. It said that lack of food is literally starving our bird population to extinction.

In May 2000 The Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer, Dunnock and Sedge Warbler all went on the endangered species list as their species have now fallen by 45 percent. The Ringed Plover, Meadow Pipit, Lapwing, Moorhen, Linnet and Reed Bunting have also gone on the list.
By 2005 it had been discovered that the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has declined by 80% in just 30 years.

Birds such as the the Mistle Thrush, Night Jar and many other native song birds are quickly declining in numbers across the country. The sparrow population, once a thriving community about our towns and cities have also disappeared.

The environmental report's wording of "indirect" technically means that birds and some animals are not "directly" being killed by the pesticides... but their food source is. Modern farmland (and garden) pesticides target and kill insects and grubs etc. leaving animals relatively free from direct harm. However insects are the main food for birds and their young. No insects mean starvation of the bird population on a massive scale. The effect is also devastating the global amphibian population as frogs and toads are declining by 2% each year. The continuous destruction of hedgerows and natural ground coverage is also contributory to this major tragedy. Also to blame for the huge decline of Britain's mammals are recent rapid building developments eating into the countryside. Fragmented woodland areas and modern practices in woodland management have also been blamed for the serious decline. By removing dead wood in woodlands, insects and habitats are destroyed, meaning less food for birds.

In 2000 the final nail in the coffin was hammered in by the the proposed go ahead of genetically modified crops. These are designed to grow without the need of pesticides because their cell structure has been artificially modified to repel insects... the food of wild birds, mammals and amphibians. The implementation of such "Frankenstein" technology means the high risk of cross fertilization affecting vegetation and plant life outside the borders of G.M fields. The prospects are frightening. The remaining pockets of our native bird population stand no chance as the natural food chain completely collapses. In France the yearly national country sport of shooting wild birds on migration continues regardless of the current situation. As part of the Global Green Law concept mentioned elsewhere at VeggieGlobal we propose:

  • 1. A complete ban on GM foods.
  • 2. A compulsory law that all farmland owners reserve at least 25% of land as natural growth areas.
  • 3. Global ban on wild bird shooting (focused on countries where applicable)

Suggested reading linked to these issues

Organic Awareness... How YOU Can Help.

Buying organic has become far more popular in the last eight years, a trend which is no bad thing either. But you should also consider the positive effects in the environmental chain, which this trend generates. We remind you so that the organic revolution does not stand risk of loosing momentum. Here we describe to you how your vegetable and fruit buying trends can help save wildlife. And for those of you who haven't considered converting to organic this section applies to you also.

At the moment organic is a little more expensive, but the more of us who make the effort to spend those few extra pennies, (instead of that cream cake!) will be making all the difference. Higher demand for organic veg will soon bring the prices in line with undesirable (but more aesthetically pleasing) pesticide covered produce. The difference in taste is amazing too, and so much healthier. You can actually feel the effects of the nutrition value in organic fruit for example. As more and more farmers convert to organic through demand, their pesticide free techniques will slowly help re-establish the remaining population of the country's birds, mammals and amphibians. Your choice in fruit and veg has a direct effect on the survival or extinction of natural wildlife.
In addition to organic, also make sure that you buy locally grown products whenever possible. Choosing locally produced fruit and veg (or any product for that matter) can dramatically help to reduced carbon emissions otherwise caused by the long-distance transportation.

Copyright 1996-2000

Tales of a Garden Wonderland by John O'Donnell

Once I lived in a house in Surrey, England.
Over the ten years that I lived there I had established a near-perfect, harmonious relationship with the garden as its inhabitants. The flora, fauna and myself all shared a mutual respect for each other! The meandering, natural ponds that I had created became home to many species of amphibians and insects; most notably, rare dragonflies encouraged by the long sheltering grass that surrounded its banks.

One half the garden was allowed to do its own thing, finding its own balance through natural selection as native plants that thrived in that area of England seeded and grew. The other half of the garden was arranged for the recreational benefit of its human inhabitants: mostly grassland, but even there daisies, buttercups and dandelions (which shortsighted gardeners call weeds!) where allowed to grow and flourish. Amongst the wild areas, I cut narrow paths so we could explore the abundance of wildlife without trampling all over their delicate habitats. Amongst the profusion of wild flowers and sun-dappled corners under flowery shrubs, animals came and explored ... and because they soon realized that they were in a safe place, they stayed because it was a safe haven between the sterile gardens in rest of the neighbourhood.
Friends would often come and visit our garden and stare in amazement at the "Disneyland" of animal activity. In the pond, frogs bounced around in abundance during their spring mating rituals while wizened toads watched from the side with bemused, deadpan expressions. Illusive newts swam deep in the water - only often seen at night by shining a torch in the water. In the later part of summer hundreds of dragonflies bounced around and flew amongst the long grasses and water flowers. Little corn or harvest mice busied around the long grasses, never venturing into the "people" areas. They lived in their little nests made out of old tennis balls (with holes cut into them, bedded with hay, attached to sticks and placed around 15 inches above ground).
All the animals, birds and plants had all the naturally balanced resources they could ever need.

The time came when I was forced to move from that house and I could only hope that its new occupants would be kind-hearted spirits who might recognize the gardens magical, natural qualities. But ass I was to find out, that certainly wasn't to be the case. As things turned out, and again because of unpleasant circumstances, (which is not part of this story) I ended up having to stay in the house next door. One evening at dusk, I was working on my computer in an upstairs room of the next door house. Through the window I could see sparks of fire blowing across from my old house. I leant out of the window to see what was happening, and to my horror I could see the whole garden cut to the ground and burning on a giant bonfire, where once a miniature rare wild flower meadow grew. To top it off, a few days later an earth digger appeared - with one huge shovel it filled my wonderful wildlife ponds with rubble and earth, killing hundreds of frogs toads, newts and dragonfly larvae. (It turned out that this pond was another of only thirteen reported breeding grounds of this dragonfly species in the UK.) At the same time, one of my old bird boxes, which I had been observing for weeks from the house next door, was ripped from its post and disposed of... it was carrying a whole family of tits.

There was never any point in discussing the preservation issues with the mindless, ignorant new occupiers who did this, because these typical consumerist "home makeover" couples - with no vision beyond their passion to redesign their self-serving lives - will never give pause for thought about the environmental effects caused by their destruction.

Later that Year
The pond in my old garden wonderland was the last wildlife breeding area for miles around. A year later, the rest of the frogs and toads that used to breed by the hundreds in my garden wonderland were found dying and disoriented around neighbouring gardens. The new house owners, in fact, continued to destroy every aspect of the house and its gardens. Tarmac now rules over most of the front garden. And the garden wonderland? It of course has become the usual trendy patio, while the rest of it is turfed throughout - covered with poisonous weedkiller, and the entire garden shows not a single sign of life.

Suggested reading linked to these issues

Read Wildlife Friendly Gardens


Armchair Tree People by John O'Donnell

One of the more positive aspects of TV broadcasting are rare documentaries highlighting environmental damage created by humankind.

A few years back one such localized issue was broadcast coinciding with building works that were about to start in the area where I lived in Surrey, UK. The program highlighted the effects on trees when cutting machines sliced deep channels along pavements to lay cable for communications like cable TV. Digging gangs get paid by the mile to do this job so the quicker they work the more money they earn.

The TV program showed areas around the country where cables had been laid using this slicing method five years earlier. Since then, hundreds of trees had died because their main roots had been cut in half by the digging machines. Whole streets of hundred year old trees had been killed.

It takes time; five to ten years for the effects to show, by which time the cable companies have long gone.

After watching the programme, and with a spontaneous burst of inspired motivation I grabbed my computer and began to write. Two days later I had delivered more than 1500 letters to all the houses in the area explaining my concern... Basically I covered all the roads that were due to be dug up by the local cable company.

The roads in question were home to thousands of old and large species of pines, redwoods and other established trees in that unique part of the Surrey Downs. All these trees are habitats to an abundance of wildlife.

Meanwhile, the cable company had also done their own house to house delivery. They had invited residents to a publicity evening where "couch potatoes" could learn of the wonderful world of Cable TV. In my letter however, I had also told the neighborhood to attend this meeting... but they were going for quite a different reason! I also mentioned in my letter that laying cables for an aging cable TV system was an archaic and unnecessary country-wide operation (being professionally knowledgeable about broadcast delivery in the media), because we would all be receiving digital TV through our ordinary aerials and telephone cables in two or three years ... which is exactly what has now happened)

The Cable TV publicity evening arrived, and instead of a gathering of a few couch potatoes, eager to buy into a package of sports channels, the cable company were somewhat surprised when hundreds of people from the town poured into the hall, including local politicians and the press. A riot of shouting and protest ensued. I remained completely quite and illusive. However one person in the audience was getting particularly verbal against the surprised cable TV representative and was almost removed from the building.

To my surprise, by the end of the evening the cable company agreed to manually dig around the main tree roots when laying the cables.

The story made front page headlines but until this day I have remained anonymous.

The point is that any Joe Public sitting in front of the telly has the power to make a difference if he or she takes the task to hand and does something about it. That's true politics at the very root level... (in this case literally!) Not hypnotized lefty, righty or whatever party members handing out leaflets on polling day down at the shopping center.

Its certainly not the politicians fault that they didn't take the ground level action as I did. They have a hundred issues on different levels to juggle around. I am sure they would hope that more ordinary people took an issue close to their heart and act on their aquired knowledge themselves ... still within a legal and diplomatic manner.

Perhaps the moral of this story shows that a group of protesting town folk can draw the media's interest and get a possible result. It's our moral responsibility as individuals that we give something back, which we otherwise rape daily from this earth. In this case, think how much environmental damage you may have caused by buying into cable TV? Remember, helping the planet is not just throwing newspapers in the recycling bin. At some time in our lives, when the opportunity arises, get up of the sofa or out of the pub and make a real difference to the planet; don't just talk about it.
We could all be tree people! Everybody can do it... be your own prime minister ... of the planet!

FOOTNOTE: We'll only know in a few years time if the cable company stuck to their promise ... if all the trees are still standing.

Suggested reading linked to these issues


Read Wildlife Friendly Gardens


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