If you don’t know who Bob is, then where have you been!? Bob is a red squirrel, helping the RSPB campaign to get nature back on the political agenda.
Although politics and legislation can be difficult to understand, public engagement is vital for saving nature. That's why the RSPB recruited Bob – a friendly face who is not afraid to lead the campaign! Bob is helping the Society to engage with new people and to encourage them to speak up and tell politicians that nature and environmental issues are important to them. Recently, Bob has been very busy campaigning, even visiting Westminster and meeting with politicians. Now, with around 120,819 votes on his website and 1,098 parliamentary candidates pledging their support, Bob's mission to get nature back on the political agenda is in full swing.
Although Bob is a new creation, red squirrels have been interested in politics for many years. After some investigation as part of my PhD research at Cardiff University, I stumbled across this story that I wanted to share with you all.
Around the year 1580 A.D., Marchan Wood, in Denbighshire north Wales was cut down for timber. A local poet called Robin Clidro was a witness to this, and later recorded a very strange sight. A group of red squirrels went to London to make a petition in complaint.
It was Bob’s great-grandmother who was in charge. This old squirrel seemed to have made quite an impression on Robin Clidro the bard:
Odious and hard is the law
and painful to little squirrels.
They go the whole way to London
with their cry and their matron before them.
This red squirrel was splendid,
soft-bellied and able to read ;
She conversed with the Council
and made a great matter of it.
If Robin Clidro can be believed, Madame Bobbe (see image below) spoke to the court in London about what had happened. She explained that the squirrels of Marchan no longer had anywhere to live, and that all their store of nuts had been lost. But it was not just the squirrels that were suffering. Just like Bob today, his great grandmother was worried about the whole of nature. She told the court:
“The owls are always hooting
for the trees, they send the children mad.
The poor owl catches cold,
left cold without her hollow trunk...”
“The chair of the wild cats,
I know where that was burnt.
Goodbye hedgehog ! No cow-collar
or pig-trough will come from here any more.”
Without woodlands, it’s not just squirrels that suffer. Just like Madame Bobbe says in her poem, Tawny owls, hedgehogs and wildcats also all rely on woodland habitat.
Unfortunately, the court did not listen to Madame Bobbe and woodlands continued to be cut down. All the animals mentioned in the poem have suffered. Hedgehog sightings have declined 25% between 2005 and 2011, and they are now considered a UK priority species (PTES, 2013). Tawny owls are in decline too (BirdTrends, 2014), and wildcats may be critically endangered in Britain (IUCN Redlist, 2010).
In 2013 the RSPB wrote a report on the State of Nature in the UK with over 25 other conservation organisations in the country. The report found that 60% of the species it looked at were in decline. Wildlife is in a real crisis.
But Madame Bobbe wasn’t just a voice for animals and birds, she also spoke about humans too. Without the woodlands, local humans became poorly. Our poem saw the link between the natural environment and living sustainably. It promoted sustainable living even back in 1580A.D.
In the end, Madame Bobbe wasn’t able to influence the court she visited, but with your help, today’s Bob can have a much louder voice. Vote for Bob now, and show politicians that they need to listen.
To hear more about animals in medieval texts, you can look at Lee Raye’s blog or follow him on Facebook and Twitter @NaturalHistoryL.
This summer I will take on a challenge of a lifetime and cycle three times the height of Snowdon every day for seven days! I will be taking part in the Haute Route cycling challenge, and I'm aiming to raise £5,000.00 for the Gola Rainforest project which is jointly managed by the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (BirdLife in Sierra Leone), the Government of Sierra Leone and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). The money will be match funded by Size of Wales.
Me with THE bike!
The Haute Route is a prestigious seven-day road race, across Europe’s iconic cols such as Col d’Izoard, Col du Galibier and Col du Telegraphe . I cycle in my spare time but I’ve never done anything as challenging as this before. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and although I’m nervous at the scale of the adventure, I’m also excited at the same time. Cycling 781km and climbing 21,900 metres in seven days, the Haute Route is the equivalent to riding Newport to Kidwelly in distance and climbing three times the height of Snowdon daily, and is regarded as one of the highest and toughest cyclosportives in the world.
This is a massive challenge, but I’m going to try and enjoy it. I’ve been in training since the start of the year and with the support of my family and friends I’m sure I’ll make it across the finish line in Geneva, and I might even get to see some great alpine wildlife too!
Me out training!
You can follow my training diary on these pages or if you’d like to sponsor me please go to www.justgiving.com/Cellan-Michael1
Tidal power schemes have the potential to generate significant quantities of renewable and clean energy. However, inappropriately located or designed renewable energy developments can cause serious, irreparable and unnecessary harm to nature.
For many years we have fought against the worst scheme - a Severn Barrage running 16 km across the Severn Estuary – which would be an ecological disaster, permanently destroying huge areas of feeding habitat for birds, and blocking the passage of migrating fish. We were relieved when, in 2013, the latest proposal for a Severn Barrage collapsed, rejected by three independent committees of MPs and by the UK Government.
We argue that a step-by-step approach should be taken for the use of renewables in the Severn, given the potential for severe adverse environmental impacts, and our lack of detailed understanding of the nature and scale of actual impacts.
This would begin with a smaller project, or projects, which could be monitored carefully and used as a test case for evaluating the impacts of larger scale projects further down the line.
In this context we have been cautiously positive about plans to site the World’s first tidal energy lagoon in Swansea Bay, in a location where it should not damage the Severn Estuary’s wildlife and habitats, which are protected by international law.
Tidal Lagoons are a new approach to tidal power and offers the prospect of tapping the renewal energy of the tides whilst keeping the impact on our natural environment within acceptable bounds.
It is an interesting new idea that deserves serious consideration and since 2011 we have been in consultation with Tidal Lagoon Power about their Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon proposal. During 2014, the Swansea Lagoon scheme went through the statutory planning process and the Planning Inspectorate’s Development Consent Order (DCO) examination closed on 10 December 2014. The Examining Authority now has to consider and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who has until 10 June 2015 to announce a decision.
Throughout the consultations the RSPB has emphasised the importance of gathering, analysing and learning from, vital information about the response of the natural system to the scheme.
We remain concerned that the Swansea Lagoon Project has not been set up with an adequate modelling and monitoring package, the results of which are vitally important to inform subsequent projects. In the absence of such information, it is unlikely that the RSPB could support future projects, particularly those which are likely to affect other wildlife sites, including European sites.
The proposal is also subject to a Marine Licence and this consultation remains open until the DCO decision is made. This has provided us with an opportunity to make recommendations regarding post-construction monitoring. We believe improvements can be made to the proposed modelling and monitoring package through changes to the Adaptive Environmental Monitoring Plan (AEMP).
We have produced a Monitoring document in an attempt to incorporate a more robust programme of monitoring measures which were lacking in the Environmental Statement, including: intertidal monitoring, bird counts, turbine collision risk of great crested grebes, herring population and recreational disturbance. The crucial first step is to agree a sound monitoring programme that validates the modelling and predictions that are, currently, all we have to go by.
Whilst the Swansea lagoon was going through the planning process, Tidal Lagoon Power submitted additional proposals to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration, for a 2nd lagoon at Cardiff and a 3rd lagoon at Newport. These proposals are for lagoons many times the size of the Swansea Lagoon and both are within the area of the estuary designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a Special Protection Area (SAC) and a Ramsar site.
At this time, we have no confidence that tidal lagoons can be sited in these highly sensitive areas without huge disruption to the natural system. We believe that it is far, far too soon to be considering any lagoon in the sensitive inner estuary until we understand the impacts of the first scheme at Swansea Bay.
Each tidal lagoon installed will change the shape of the coastline, affecting the flow of water through the Severn Estuary, with knock on effects for sediment transport, habitats and flood risk.
There is an urgent need for research to understand what the effects of different combinations of lagoons might be, in order to highlight, and potentially mitigate, negative environmental and social impacts. The impact of this new technology must be properly understood in the context of the importance of the environment in which they are proposed.
Watch this space to see what will be our next steps...