Earlier this year, as a result of making friends at a conference years ago, I had the privilege of working with a bunch of the world’s most knowledgeable peat-ple on this article for the FAO, published to coincide with COP25: Peatlands: the challenge of mapping the world’s invisible stores of carbon and water. (Page 46-57 in the linked document).
Our main message, watered-down, is that mapping peatlands is no easy task and there is still much work to do on the ground, and across the globe….but we are fast working on these knowledge gaps and know enough about the important role that peatlands play in mitigating climatic change that we would be fools to let them squander.
Back in February, the British Ecological Society’s Special Interest Group in Conservation Ecology (which I’m enjoying Chairing) ran a thoroughly interesting event in London on what Brexit might mean to/for early career ecologists. It was a sell-out, despite concerns of Brexit-fatigue. And I was so impressed by the level of engagement of those that attended. It was expertly organised by Dr Andy Suggitt, whom wrote a great piece on the event here. Kate Howlett has also written this and this piece on the day, which provide another interesting perspective on the event and learnings from it.
Some wisdom from Dame Georgina Mace, whom herself confessed being pretty baffled by what the future might hold.
One of the key learnings I took away from the event was concerning the one (ONE) positive outcome that could (COULD) result from Brexit: the ability for the UK to manage their agricultural landscapes independently from the top-down regulation currently dictated by the Common Agricultural Policy. Leaving the EU would mean we could reform the policies which dictate how we manage the countryside, mostly those rules and structures which presently determine to what degree we degrade our rural environments in the different corners of our green and pleasant island. “Common” is perhaps a warning sign for any environmental policy, which requires the particularities of the “local” to be central in decision-making if a policy is to stand any chance of being “sustainable”. But that was never the central aim of the CAP. Perhaps, if someone does finally make a decision on which direction the UK will go in (before it self-implodes) we can create a nature-focused LAP: a Local Agricultural Policy, which considers the lay of the land, the local livelihoods, and the living biodiversity, above- and below-ground (e.g. our down-trodden worms).
But we only could leave the EU. And we only could have the bravery and sense in Leadership to listen to the evidence for how to responsibly, perhaps even sustainably manage our countryside and the resources within it. And if we don’t leave the EU, we could try to reform things from within; building on the important research (e.g.) that is already being done in the UK and Europe on what sustainable agriculture might look like. We need to hook those scientists up with the policy makers and shapers. And wouldn’t that be great – to have a leading influence across Europe. The worms would be proud.
What does the future hold for our green and pleasant, and depauperate land?