I’ve been working in UK nature conservation for 28 years and now realise I know less than I thought I did when I started. Perhaps I know more now about which are the right questions to ask.
2015 is an exciting year. Working with friends, we have created a new charity called People Need Nature. PNN has been established to promote the sensory, emotional and spiritual values of nature to people.
Nature provides many things for people, including obvious things like the oxygen we breath and the food we eat. But it is also vital for people in less obvious ways, ways which often get ignored because they are difficult to pin down, or quantify. Nature provides people with things like inspiration, contemplation, joy and solace.
PNN will work with artists, writers and communities to explore why nature is important to them, how nature is changing and the impact of those changes. We will also work with groups interested in the spiritual value of nature, whether these are orthodox religious groups or people who feel a spiritual connection to nature outside of organised religion. PNN is also going to advocate for a different approach to the way nature is regarded in the public realm, whether that is public land, the way public spending affects nature, and policy makers attitudes towards nature. We will be getting involved in and contributing to debates around Natural Capital, ecosystem services and biodiversity offsetting.
I will giving some talks about People Need Nature over the coming months, including speaking at the forthcoming CIEEM conference on Reconnecting People and Nature, on 3rd November, in Sheffield. Please come along and join the debate.
I aim to continue writing this blog while I develop the new charity. I have been writing for nearly five years, having started with a blog at milesking.wordpress.com. This transferred to the The Grasslands Trust’s website, before its untimely demise in 2012. You can still find my previous blogs here.
I write about what interests me: nature conservation, environmental policy, general politics and ethics.
I am interested in the relationship between nature and people, the places people share with nature; and how the connection can be re-established, where it has been broken.
I have spent many years exploring the relationship between public environmental goods and public support for land based industries (eg the Common Agricultural Policy); I am deeply sceptical about using the market to identify the value and price for environmental goods and services, and have written extensively about biodiversity offsetting and other market-based approaches.
I’m very interested in the intersection between orthodox conservation and re-wilding. I have been debating re-wilding with George Monbiot since about October 2011 and it is now nearly two years since we had an excellent debate about them at the Linnean Society (which you can watch here). I am working with George and others to develop new ways of looking at nature and how we value nature and have contributed to the development of Rewilding Britain.
This year I have been developing People Need Nature and doing some freelance conservation work and running training events for the The Woodland Trust, Dorset Wildlife Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and Dorset AONB.
After doing a Biochemistry degree (why did I do that???) I started working in nature conservation in 1986, volunteering with BTCV in Bristol before joining Avon Wildlife Trust’s community programme. I spent a couple of very happy years there working with volunteers on AWT’s nature reserves, coppicing woods, building fences and mowing meadows.
I was lucky enough to go to University College London to do an MSc in conservation, then landed a job with BBONT (as was) the Wildlife Trust for Berks Bucks and Oxon as their Buckingamshire Conservation Officer. This was a real apprenticeship for me, where I got to learn about everything, nature reserve management, planning casework, a bit of campaigning, a tiny bit of advocacy.
In 1993 I moved to Plantlife as their conservation manager, where I learnt a bit about plants, was part of the Biodiversity Challenge Team, and got embroiled in biodiversity policy and politics. I also worked on the Habitats group at Wildlife Link on legislative reform, the wildlife bill, which culminated in the CROW act in 2000.
After five years at Plantlife I moved down to Dorset where I married my long suffering wife Annabel and we now have 2 fantastic girls. I spent 8 years in environmental consultancy, working for NGOs on policy and producing reports, doing rare plant conservation projects and a lot of survey work, mostly phase 2 plant survey (NVC). I was immensely lucky to survey large parts of Salisbury Plain, the Dartmoor Training Area; and many beautiful heathlands, woods and meadows.
While I was working as a consultant, I also did a few years part-time at English Nature/Natural England, and a secondment with Dorset AONB on their Pastures New project. These roles gave me a great insight into statutory conservation and its processes. I set up a couple of HLS agreements, did quite a bit of planning work defending Dorset heaths against the impacts of housing development and had a £60,000 fund for small scale capital works on wildlife-rich grasslands, bringing them back into management.
I then accidentally ending up working at The Grasslands Trust, first as a consultant, then as conservation manager, then conservation director. I really got stuck into national policy work at TGT, covering biodiversity, agriculture and protected sites policy – as well as taking a complaint to the European Commission against the government for failure to implement the EIA directive properly. I even went to meet eurocrats from DG environment and DG agriculture, in a vain attempt to explain why things like the 50 trees rule and GAEC 12 were so damaging, as well, of course as, EIA for Agriculture (GAEC 5). I wrote “Nature’s Tapestry” which, as a follow up to “Green Unpleasant Land” 10 years before, distilled everything that I felt was important to identify about the importance of wildlife-rich grasslands in the UK and what needed to be done to save them. Although TGT is no longer here, the work we did culminated in things like Saving our Magnificent Meadows, Coronation Meadows and the current, heightened interest in wildlife-rich grasslands.
Then there was 9 months at Buglife as their Conservation Director but for various reasons that did not work out. I developed depression and anxiety due to a variety of different things – notably the untimely death of both my father and brother to cancers. All this really knocked me back and I was off for a bit, then working part-time for about 6 months.
During 2013, I helped Plantlife win their £2.5M lottery grant for Saving our Magnificent Meadows, and have been working for RSPB as their grassland expert at Lodge Hill SSSI, Kent. Up until December last year, I spent 18 months working for Footprint Ecology, as a senior ecologist. I worked on a lot of Habitat Regulations Assessments, wrote a couple of management plans and contributed to various other projects.
Last year I worked with Rev Dr Mark Betson, rural officer of the Diocese of Chichester, and Keith Datchler, of the Weald Meadows Project, on a project investigating the relationship between nature and spiritual values in Sussex churchyards, which has been fascinating. This was published in March 2015 as The Nature of God’s Acre, by the Chichester Diocese. You can buy the book at NHBS or Chichester cathedral bookshop.
In my spare time (when I’m not spending far too much time on social media) I have taken up the cello again and play in the Dorchester Community Orchestra, which is great fun.
After eight years as a Governor, at Manor Park First School in Dorchester, I have recently retired from this post. I have a long suffering family!
You can contact me at email@example.com or via twitter @milesking10.
Thanks for reading
© Miles King and http://www.anewnatureblog.wordpress.com (2013).
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