Monday, 31 October 2016

Tony Juniper: a President for people and wildlife

Emily Kench
Cley Marshes Marketing and Community Intern

We are currently witnessing one of the craziest presidential elections in history. It seems to me that in amongst the profanities, the personalities, and the politics, the true cause of the campaign – the people – has been forgotten.

Tony Juniper: The Wildlife Trusts' President
Staying in, watching the TV and despairing at international news has become a daily ritual. So on Friday evening, I opted for a change of practice. Rather than tut and groan at events playing out on the other side of the world, I thought I’d see if more local events could offer me any hope. I donned my walking boots and wandered down to the Norwich Science Festival at the Forum to hear the President of The Wildlife Trusts plea.

Tony Juniper, bestselling author and committed conservationist, added Wildlife Trust President to his extensive list of achievements back in 2015. After inspiring millions with his book What has nature ever done for us? and the sequel, What Nature Does for Britain, over 100 like-minded people came together to hear the man of the moment speak.

It is fair to say that in amongst the recognition and the accolades, Tony has not forgotten his ethos which truly resonates with Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s vision. We must create a future where wildlife is protected and enhanced through sympathetic management and people are connected with and inspired by wildlife and wild spaces.

Tony did not preach, he did not patronise, he purely highlighted simple conservation principles. The talk focussed on the positives, the solutions, and the opportunities available to us.

In conservation, it’s common to hear that we’re too late and we’ve missed our chance. We have become accustomed to the concept that we can only conserve what we have at present, and even then we may have missed the boat. However, Tony challenged this thought process. He emphasised the importance of rewilding and restoration. He highlighted how ecosystem services can help us to value our natural resources in a way that is compatible with the markets.

Most importantly, in our wave of post-Brexit uncertainty, where neither the implications for wildlife or people are understood, Tony offered assurance that conservation practices can improve. We must not focus on what we have lost, but instead what we can gain. If as a nation of consumers, we speak of our desire to protect our wildlife, we can make change happen. Forward-thinking can put us ahead of the game. Proactive engagement with businesses and politicians right now can help us to influence policy-making in the future.

Tony Juniper inspiring an audience at the Norwich Science Festival
This kind of insight can only come from someone who not only knows British wildlife like the back of their hand, but who can also connect with people from all walks of life. The audience was in awe, and even a few people munching on garlic bread in Pizza Express above stopped to listen.

By the end of the talk I was filled with a sense of heart-warming hope. Forget Trump and Clinton, in Tony Juniper I had found my own president: a president of people and wildlife.

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