Bring Back Nature Now: Thousands march in London calling for urgent action

Crabs, badgers and lots of dragonfly wings will be among the fancy dress donned by thousands of people who will join more than 350 environmental groups marching across London on Saturday to demand that the next government not “ignore reckless” the crisis of nature.

For the first time, leading organizations including the National Trust and RSPB will stand alongside hunt saboteurs and direct action campaigners at the Restore Nature Now march, as campaigners call on the next government to take “bold” steps to address the biodiversity crisis.

Naturalist Chris Packham, who proposed the march and has led the coalition of green charities taking part, said the lack of “substantial promises” by political parties in the election campaign to tackle the destruction of the planet was “reckless”.

“I am devastated by the lack of foresight, intelligence, commitment, understanding and determination to do something about the single biggest issue in the history of our species,” he said. “At a time when we need bold and courageous leadership, we are seeing no sign of any of the manifestos materializing.”

Packham said it would be “a bold claim” to expect the march – attended by celebrities including Judi Dench and Emma Thompson – to put the biodiversity crisis on the political agenda given that it has had “no mention at all” in the election. campaign so far.

But he said he hoped the day of wildlife songs, speeches and slogans would show there was a growing coalition determined to force the next government to properly fund wildlife recovery, with a possibility of further protests.

“What the march needs to do is send a very clear signal to all the candidates that a broad swath of society is showing a real concern for nature restoration,” he said. “Don’t think we’re going away because we’re knocking on the door of number 10 on July 5 saying now is the time for action.”

Packham said it was heartening that even a pest management company had contacted him to join the march, along with organizations from Action for Elephants UK to Unitarians for Climate Justice. Those supporting the march range from global charities like WWF to grassroots outfits like Tenterden Wildlife. It will start on Park Lane at midday and finish with a rally in Parliament Square.

Chris Packham said he was ‘devastated’ by the government’s lack of commitment to tackle the destruction of the planet. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA

Debbie Tann, chief executive of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, which is sending a banner group of supporters, said: “It’s going to be a really colorful and beautiful celebration of nature, but asking our politicians to do much more. and much faster to restore nature because we are running out of time.

“We need nature and the environment included in all policy decisions – it supports the economy. This is about critical life support systems and the longer we leave it, the more difficult and more expensive it will be.”

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, said: “The Government signed up to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 and we only have 3% of England’s land protected and well-managed for nature. We are miles away from him. We’re not talking about minor changes by political parties here, we’re talking about a really fundamental change in the way we think about how nature supports so much of what we’re trying to do. This is the thing that we are not seeing from any [political party].”

There is widespread concern among campaigners about the lack of action on nature in Labour’s manifesto. Mark Avery, a co-founder of Wild Justice with Packham and Ruth Tingay, and a member of the Labor party, said: “The Labor manifesto is very good on energy and climate change, but it’s hopeless on nature and wildlife and everything that is rural – there is nothing really in agriculture. It seems to be written by people who do not know what wildlife is and do not care about it. This must be partly the fault of NGOs for not broadcasting them messages quite strongly.”

The march is unusual in that it has large, risk-averse charities such as the National Trust officially present alongside direct action groups.

The Guardian understands that some major environmental charities have privately expressed concern that their logos could be seen alongside more radical groups.

On the other hand, direct action groups have their misgivings about some of the organizations they are asked to march alongside, particularly animal rights organizations that oppose the RSPB’s limited culling of foxes and other animals.

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Nathan McGovern, a spokesperson for Animal Rising, said the live action groups were asked to be on their best behavior. “It has become clear that many of the larger and more established NGOs that are part of the march would not want to be associated with anything that causes significant levels of disruption in the general public or causes arrests,” he said.

Despite this, most members of direct action groups were positive about the possibility of marching in coalition with established NGOs, even if some considered it a somewhat belated joining of forces.

Simon Russell, of the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said: “In the wider spheres we are obviously all on the same page. We can see the damage being done to wildlife and the environment, and we want to see it improved. There are more connections and things we agree on than things we don’t.”

James Skeet, a spokesman for Just Stop Oil, said: “It’s a promising sign. It certainly wouldn’t have happened a few years ago and the hope is that this is the radical arm effect in action. We are seeing it as a mobilizing opportunity.

“We definitely have a mix of a little bit of frustration at times with where the NGO space is — the answer is a little bleak given where we are, in terms of how critical things are in 2024.”

Caroline Lucas, the outgoing Greens MP, recently criticized NGOs for “playing it safe”, keeping “a distance from rebels and rule-breakers” and failing to challenge the ideology of the sanctity of economic growth.

Lucas said environmental campaigners should spend more time talking to people who still won’t be convinced about the urgency of tackling the triple crisis of climate, nature and inequality rather than “talking to each other on Twitter”.

Avery said he agreed with Lucas and added: “Some of the long-established NGOs have become less defiant in recent years and they are the people who keep telling us there is a nature crisis.”

According to Avery, nature charities are often held back by trustees who have to ask “isn’t it making as much money as it can selling yeast or bird feed, but is it changing the world enough?”

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