"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Global decline of butterflies

When I was a child and my hard working farmer father had any time to spare, he would take me for walks in the woods across the road from the farm to look for butterflies and moths. He was passionate about them and recognized them all. I remember his almost child-like delight at spotting a comma, a skipper or a painted lady – then on the South Downs of Sussex he would show us the different blues – such pretty and dainty butterflies favouring the flowers and other vegetation of those chalk slopes. The names of these beautiful insects even now flood back into my memory and evoke those long summer days that to a child seem endless.

And we were brought up to love and respect all the natural world around us, based on an understanding of the interdependencies of the different plants, animals, birds, insects that were all around us.

But even then, more than 50 years ago, alarm bells were ringing – there was already concern that butterflies were in decline in the British Isles. Now this concern is much greater and it has gone global.

There has just been a conference in the UK, (Reading), organized by the Butterfly Conservation Trust, a UK charity. attended by 300 scientists. And the conclusion is that there is still a long way to go to achieve the target set by the United Nations to halt the decline by 2010 of the world’s biodiversity. Biodiversity is the entirety of life on earth, birds, animals, butterflies, worms, fungi, bacteria, and including ourselves. David Attenborough has said that halting biodiversity loss is on a par with getting a man on the moon in its complexity, and an improvement in butterfly numbers would be a good indicator that we are winning.

Clearly in the knowledge that their target was in no way achieved, the UN have had to rethink, and they have declared this year as the International Year of Biodiversity to be formally marked on 22 May.

The UN wants to raise public awareness of the importance of biodiversity, and encourage organizations and individuals to support the rich diversity of life on earth. Gardeners and farmers are clearly at the sharp end of this initiative but we do not have to live in the country to make a difference – even the smallest plots will help, and allotments, ponds, community orchards, rooftops, parking lots, hedges and ditches, all can be nurtured to encourage biodiversity.

I am trying year on year to grow more flowers that attract bumblebees and other insect pollinators, butterflies, moths and other “bugs?” Because of course these then encourage other wild life. We can all go to a big garden, for example I go to the RHS garden at Wisley at all seasons of the year, to observe which plants the butterflies and bees like best and introduce them into our own plots.

Can we all pledge to do something, however small, to make a difference to our local biodiversity? Let's have some exchange of ideas. What will you do?

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