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Wild Isles: Painful Controversy

David Attenborough and the frightening reality about the UK's diminishing wildlife

Bees amongst lavender

In case you needed the extra proof, the new BBC series Wild Isles has once again seen David Attenborough evidence his reputation as a National Treasure. Especially now, at a time of dire need for the UK's wildlife.

Throughout his extensive career, he has guided us across the globe, introducing many of us to the most ornate and grotesque natural spectacles. From following the lives of tiger cubs, to sharing knowledge about giant flowers that smell of rotting flesh (yes, they're real), it's easy to forget the richness of the wildlife right on our doorstep.

As the series highlights, the UK clings to intricate pockets of life. The deciduous woodlands we all know and love, teeming with bluebells in the early summer, winding rivers, grassland patches and the ecologically diverse habitats created within the 19,717 km of British Coastline. Our coastline is in particular highly biodiverse. It hosts killer whales in the Shetland Islands, grey seals, representing 40% of the world's grey seal population, and in deeper water, cuttlefish that hunt with ferocity and gather to mate.

But I'd like to emphasise a word I used. Cling. Our nature is barely clinging to survival. Our wildlife populations, our biodiversity, our nature safe-havens, are hanging by a thread. And we are, as Attenborough states in a special episode of Wild Isles, one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet.

A matter of urgency

I wish I could completely and accurately convey in written text, without the groans of despair and sighs of exasperation, just how powerlessly distressed it makes me to watch those bits in many of Attenborough's documentaries mentioning the decline of wildlife of any sort. The sheer scale of the loss we have essentially stood by is evidence of our almost inescapable disconnect from nature. We are rapid consumers, blissfully unaware of the dangers of the monoculture production line and its effects. It is devastating our biodiversity, damaging soil quality and killing off our remaining lifeline of vital pollinators.

As Attenborough himself suggests, it's not simply a case of saving our wildlife on the

basis of 'it's nice to have.' It's not just nice to have. It's necessary to have.

An island of tree clones

73% of the UK’s woodland resource is privately owned. In some cases, this means some extra protection for our woodlands. In other cases, not so much, because unless indicated otherwise, landowners hold the right to deforest parts of our already dwindling forests for the sole purpose of personal convenience. Much of the UK's 'woodlands' are not biodiverse. In fact, many are plantations, which are populated by tree monocultures, usually non-native coniferous species. With thousands of these same trees in one area, all aspects of the land lack the richness and carbon sink ability of our original, ancient woodlands. Just 2.5% of the remaining 13% forest coverage in the UK is made up of this precious ancient woodland.

The land of ancient woodlands have been tree-covered since the 1600s in some areas, so habitats are thoroughly developed with high quality soil, and home to thriving communities of animals, plant life, fungi and microorganisms. Once lost, these vital fragments of land are lost forever, and much of our unique and necessary wildlife will be lost too.

Political, or factual?

The 'final episode' of Wild Isles, commissioned by RSPB, WWF, and National Trust, has caused a slight stir over the past few months. Speculation suggests the BBC have refused to broadcast the episode on live television over fear of 'right wing backlash.' It's still available to watch on iPlayer, but to me, it raises the alarm in terms of where the organisation's priorities truly lie.

Regardless of the BBC's intentions, this episode should be broadcasted on main channel television. The episode far from acts as some sort of political propaganda campaign. On the contrary, it simply relays factual information about the state of the UK's natural habitats, which, if anything, is a broadcasting opportunity the BBC should leap at. Just as it would do with the headlines of the Ten O'clock News.

We all ought to be aware of the current damage our wildlife barely endures on a daily basis.

Our native wildlife is rapidly declining around us, right at this moment. And we, vitally including those with authority in this country, must act to prevent further damage before it is completely beyond repair.

It's not political. Saving our native wildlife and mitigating climate change lies in the best interest of all of us. I’d like to thank David Attenborough for his continued efforts to allow the British public to see nature for what it is, and what it is destined for if we, particularly those in power, do not act soon.


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