Nature should have a seat at the negotiating table

One of the UK’s leading nature writers who was inspired by his childhood in the Peak District has said that ecology  must be “institutionalised” at the heart of all Government decisions if mankind is to save the planet.

Mark Cocker, who grew up in Buxton where the countryside meets the town at Lightwood Road, told his audience at Buxton International Festival that an understanding of nature had to be embedded into everything we plan.

“We’ve lost half of the natural world in the last 40 years,” said Mark, who added that demand for finite natural resources, especially water, continued to rise in a way which was not envisaged by previous generations. Many of the species of birds he used to see at Lightwood have long since disappeared from the area.

“The way forward is to institutionalise ecological understanding,” he said. “Without that understanding, you can’t possibly plan.”

Mark’s next book will study what has happened to England’s natural world through the lens of six landscapes: “It is an attempt to state what could be done differently in the future.”

And conservation was not just about resources – our relationship with the natural world is vital to our identity as humans. One of his most influential books, Birds and People, was a ground-breaking study of the cultural relationship between birds and human culture.

“Other species have been central to the way we express ourselves,” said Mark. “If you take birds and nature out of Shakespeare, you’d have to redact half of every page.”

Mark, who was in conversation with Mike Mongahan, Chairman of Buxton Civic Association,  was a teenage member of Buxton Field Club, which he praised for “taking a 360 degree” approach to nature with its focus on plants, insects and birds.

Buxton Festival’s next literary event is the Book Weekend from November 24 to 26   when Lib Dem Leader Sir Vince Cable, BBC star Jeremy Vine and Blackadder’s Baldrick – alias Tony Robinson – will be among the speakers.