Poll found that 45% of those with offspring aged 12 and under wanted ‘more local safe places to play’
Published to mark the all-day Natural Childhood Summit , the data marks the latest stage of the trust’s determined attempt to see more under-13s with tree-climbing skills and muddy knees.
Carried out by YouGov, the poll found that 45% of parents with children aged 12 and under wanted “more local safe places to play” as an incentive to allow their children a freer rein. Pressed on what “safe” meant, 37% of those unhappy with present arrangements cited “stranger danger”, 25% a lack of doorstep green space and 21% too much traffic on routes to playing fields, the countryside or parks.
The two most popular solutions were more supervision at play spaces, from school staff to park keepers, and more activities organised by schools or youth groups. They were proposed by 32% and 31% of the representative sample of 419 parents interviewed across the country.
The trust is also worried that parental fears appeared to be infecting children who had picked up worries about everything from tree-climbing being more dangerous than fun, to not going out in poor weather “in case you slip or catch a cold”. Role models who made a point of going out in the cold, such as Sir Ernest Shackleton or Robert Scott, have meanwhile given way to the heavily-armed and often alien protagonists of computer games. Tim Gill, the author of Rethinking Childhood ,who is speaking at today’s summit, said: “It’s perfectly natural for parents to want to protect their children. But it’s also a simple fact that children can only become confident and capable adults if they are allowed to take some responsibility for themselves as they grow up.
“A more balanced, thoughtful approach is desperately needed. We have to start recognising the benefits of spending time out of doors, rather than just looking out for the risks.” The summit wants to work out agreed programmes with schools, parents’ groups and others which make sure that all children have the chance to “connect with nature” before the age of 12. The trust itself is using its vast and fascinating estate to encourage outdoor children’s activities in everywhere from stately homes’ walled vegetable gardens to wild stretches of the Lake District.
It has also handed out more than 200,000 outdoors activity scrapbooks since the beginning of May in its related 50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾ .
Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said the issue had struck a chord and the new data reinforced the belief that “parents want their children to have a better connection with nature, but don’t feel completely confident about how to make that happen in a safe and stimulating way”.
She said: “There is widespread agreement that this is an important issue and that now is the time to act.
“The worlds of conservation, government, education and child welfare need to work together with families and communities to find solutions.”
- Now is the moment to get children playing outdoors again | Fiona Reynolds (guardian.co.uk)
- Getting kids into nature starts at home, inquiry finds (ntpressoffice.wordpress.com)
- Stranger danger ‘cuts outdoor play’ (express.co.uk)
- Getting kids into nature starts at home, inquiry finds (outdoornation.org.uk)
- ‘Stranger danger’ keeps children shut up indoors (independent.co.uk)
- UK News: Stranger danger ‘cuts outdoor play’ (walesonline.co.uk)
- National News: Stranger danger ‘cuts outdoor play’ (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Stranger danger ‘cuts outdoor play’ (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
After spending five years in opposition trying to detoxify the Tories’ image, David Cameron promised to lead ‘the greenest government ever’ when he entered No 10, exactly two years ago. Matt Chorley of The Independent on Sunday investigates what became of that pledge
David Cameron is today accused of doing no more than pay lip service to his boast that he would lead the “greenest government ever” and of leaving Britain vulnerable to the economic and environmental dangers of failing to tackle climate change.
On the second anniversary of his speech setting out his “simple ambition” for the coalition, the Prime Minister comes under fire from business leaders, eco-campaigners and politicians who warn that ministers’ anti-green rhetoric, policy U-turns and turbulent backbenchers are thwarting efforts to foster a low-carbon economy.
Samantha Smith, the environmentalist who took Mr Cameron to hug huskies in the Arctic to show a new Tory enthusiasm for the green agenda, leads the criticism. She claims the PM’s reluctance to lead the way threatens investment in renewable energy and undermines attempts to persuade developing countries to go green.
She told The Independent on Sunday: “This where we see whether David Cameron is a global leader or not. It is about being out in front, showing leadership and direction. We are not seeing enough of that.”
Her comments have been echoed by a diverse coalition, ranging from the CBI and renewable-energy firms to Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and even Tory MPs.
From botched cuts to solar subsidies to the aborted forests sell-off, from a new rush for gas to subsidies for nuclear power, there is plenty in the coalition’s record that has raised doubts about the competency and commitment of ministers to the cause.
Repeated attacks by George Osborne on low-carbon policies – claiming “we’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business” – have been highlighted as a major cause of concern, with the Chancellor suggesting there is a choice between growth and being green.
The need for action remains acute. Last month, the International Energy Agency warned that energy-related CO2 emissions are on course to almost double by 2050, pushing global temperatures up by at least 6C. “Such an outcome would confront future generations with significant economic, environmental and energy security hardships,” said its deputy executive director, Richard H Jones.
Last Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech was seen by some as a turning point for the coalition. The Energy Bill will aim to provide long-term certainty for investors in low-carbon power, by guaranteeing a steady rate of return. But critics warn it amounts to a subsidy for nuclear plants, something Lib Dems are vehemently opposed to. The heads of four of the country’s biggest environmental organisations – Greenpeace, WWF, RSPB and Friends of the Earth – have written to the Government warning against an “over-reliance on gas”, which could account for 70 per cent of generating capacity by 2020. The letter, seen by The IoS, calls for more support for renewable energy to “provide investors with long-term certainty”.
Ultra-green members of the Government would like more “aggressive” policies, including council tax and business rate discounts for properties that are more energy-efficient. But these are unlikely to get past sceptics who would see it as another “green tax”.
Earlier this month, Mr Cameron made his first public comment on the green agenda since becoming Prime Minister, though confusion over whether it was a “keynote speech” or simply “opening remarks” at a meeting of international energy ministers added to the sense that this is not a policy priority. A YouGov poll in March revealed that just 2 per cent of people thought he had kept his promise to lead the greenest government ever.
It is all a long way from the day in April 2006, when Mr Cameron burnished his green credentials by posing with huskies in Svalbard, declaring: “It is possible to take a lead and make a difference.”
Six years on, it is the absence of leadership that most worries environmentalists. Ms Smith, now leader of WWF’s global climate and energy initiative, revealed she was “impressed” by the Tory leader on the infamous dog-sled trip, but today is fearful of a lack of conviction. “We understood that part of it was about promoting the new greening of the Tory party, but it also seemed to us to be genuine, beyond some false commitment and a nod to climate change.” She warns that Mr Cameron must stand up to the “huge pushback” claims from climate-sceptic Tory MPs and Mr Osborne, who express doubts “on whether the UK can ‘afford’ to fulfil its obligations”.
There is a stark difference between being the “greenest ever” and the “greenest possible” government. Without a pro-green zeal at the very top of government, ambitious plans are unlikely to reach their potential. “It’s the difference between a policy that trundles along and one which is given some welly,” says one government source.
Like many, Tim Yeo, the Tory chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, warns that the Department of Energy and Climate Change looks like “a second-division Whitehall department” when up against the Treasury, which is institutionally suspicious of green policies. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs fares little better. Responsible for the countryside – and the infamous plan to sell off Britain’s forests – it is damned with faint praise even by its backers. “Defra’s heart is in the right place,” says one. “It just needs a bit more clout.” The Campaign to Protect Rural England fears Defra is “an isolated, and not especially influential, outpost”.
The loss of Chris Huhne, who resigned as Energy Secretary in February after being charged with perverting the course of justice, is a mixed blessing. A Lib Dem big beast, he regularly stood up to Tories in general and Mr Osborne in particular. But there is a growing school of thought in Westminster, too, that Mr Huhne’s spiky relationship with the Chancellor was counterproductive. Friends of Mr Osborne say his anti-green rhetoric while Mr Huhne was in the Cabinet was in part a way of putting up “two fingers” to the Lib Dems. Since the latter’s departure, his language has been tempered. “George has drawn a line under the antagonistic stuff now Chris has gone,” says one Tory minister. “Politics is based on people and relationships – shock!” adds another.
Observers say the jury is still out on Mr Huhne’s successor, Ed Davey. In his first interview after his appointment in March, Mr Davey told The IoS: “Let no one be under any illusion, I am completely committed to the ambition for this to be the greenest government ever.”
He might be committed. But there are real doubts about whether David Cameron’s priorities now lie far away from the glaciers of Svalbard.
Cameron’s Green ratings (are all over the place)
David Cameron’s “greenest government ever” boast on 14 May 2010 was followed by almost two years of silence. George Osborne filled the void, claiming green regulations imposed a “ridiculous cost” on business. The loss of Chris Huhne as Energy Secretary leaves both the Lib Dems and the green lobby one big beast down. But William Hague boasts that the Foreign Office is “leading this charge with vigour” and Nick Clegg is to lead the UK delegation to the Rio Earth Summit.
Verdict Sometimes words speak louder than actions.
The low-carbon economy, employing one million people, has been growing by 4 per cent a year, despite the recession. The UK is ranked seventh in the world for investment in clean energy, which was $9.4bn in 2011 – up 35 per cent, from $7bn, on 2010. Business leaders dispute claims about the green “burden”, but want consistency to reassure investors. The £3bn Green Investment Bank, to fund low-carbon energy schemes, will start lending this year, though critics note it won’t be able to borrow until 2016 at the earliest.
Verdict Treasury blind to potential green shoots of growth.
Panicked by the high uptake of generous subsidies for people installing solar panels, the Government rushed to cut the payouts by half. The High Court blocked the move, which had triggered claims that manufacturers and installers would go bust, and set alarm bells ringing about ministers’ commitment and competence.
Verdict Cock-up, not conspiracy, but investors spooked.
More than 100 Tory MPs demanded cuts to subsidies for “inefficient and intermittent” onshore wind farms, but the PM responded there were “perfectly hard-headed reasons” to build more. There are plans for big expansion by 2020, pushing onshore turbine output up from 4.7GW to 13GW and offshore from 1.6GW to 18GW.
Verdict ”Bird shredders” or things of beauty, they are vital to green energy future.
Marine and tidal
Coalition pulled the plug on Severn Barrage, but has a target for 200MW to 300MW of marine capacity by 2020. However, a £20m fund is a drop in the ocean for a technology still in its infancy.
Verdict A lack of vision means the sector could sink.
The Green Deal, offering homes lagging, boilers and low-energy lights paid for through future savings on bills, is seriously ambitious – hoping to stimulate £14bn-worth of private funding – but it has real potential to go wrong and risks low take-up. Smart meters, giving live updates on energy use, rolled out by 2019.
Verdict Big, bold thinking but could be a damp squib.
The fourth carbon budget promises to halve carbon emissions, from 1990 levels, by 2025. The UK government is leading the argument in Europe to go for a 30 per cent cut in emissions by 2020, up from 20 per cent. Government departments cut emissions by 14 per cent in the coalition’s first year. Plans for a carbon capture and storage project in Fife, Scotland, were scrapped but a £1bn fund has been made available to help this burgeoning technology.
Verdict Ambitious targets require ambitious politicians.
A plan to sell off half the Forestry Commission’s woodland was ditched after a campaign attracted 500,000 signatures. A planning shake-up sparked fears the countryside would be concreted over before a partial climbdown. An injection of £250m to reinstate weekly bin collections contradicts the recycling message. But a Defra review of habitat directives showed just 0.5 per cent caused major problems. There are plans to plant one million trees by 2015.
Verdict The rural champion risks trampling on its grassroots.
Oil and gas
A £3bn tax break in March to help oil firms to drill new deep wells off the north of Scotland dismayed campaigners, coming 12 months after a £2bn increase in tax on oil production. The requirement for power stations to be more efficient and less polluting is to be scrapped. Critics warn it will lead to a new dash for gas. Fracking – pumping water into shale rock to release gas – remains controversial, including fears it causes tremors.
Verdict No sign of ending our addiction to the black stuff.
The PM promised to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow, but the Chancellor is pushing for a U-turn, telling MPs the country must “confront airport capacity in the South-east”.
Verdict A U-turn after the 2015 election would retoxify the Tories.
The experts’ view
“Treasury noises-off are not helpful. A lot of this is work in progress but more signs are encouraging than discouraging.”
Tim Yeo, MP; Tory chairman, Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee
“The Government’s record is good in parts. They say the proof is in the pudding, well the pudding is still in the oven.”
Gordon Edge; Policy director, RenewableUK
“It’s more subtle than saying it’s all been terrible – but it’s more tragic, as well, because they have the bits of the jigsaw.”
Caroline Lucas, MP; Leader, Green Party
“The economic climate has made politicians less receptive to the green agenda, but the ‘environment vs growth’ argument is self-defeating. This Government can still be the greenest ever, but it needs to raise its game.”
Ben Stafford; Head of campaigns, Campaign to Protect Rural England
“The real issue is whether the ‘greenest government ever’ was a genuine aim, a sop to the Lib Dems, or a PR slogan.”
Joan Walley, MP; Labour chairwoman, Commons Environmental Audit Committee
“The Government has caved into fossil-fuel lobbyists and green-lighted a risky increase in our dependence upon imported, polluting gas.”
Joss Garman; Senior campaigner, Greenpeace
“The chopping and changing of green policies has been damaging to business confidence. The Government must ensure it has a clear message.”
Rhian Kelly; Director for business environment, CBI
“We need to ensure more advanced engineering and manufacturing to create the solutions that will be essential to meeting our climate-change goals.”
Greg Barker, MP; Climate Change minister
“David Cameron’s pledge to vote blue and go green was nothing more than a con, designed to trick people into thinking the Tories had changed.”
Caroline Flint, MP; Labour climate change spokeswoman
“The ‘greenest government ever’ aspiration was hardly setting the bar high, so it’s a let-down to see the Government struggle to rise to that standard.”
David Nussbaum; Chief executive, WWF-UK
- David Cameron: ‘this is the greenest UK government ever’ (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Latest update from Chris Huhne (evoenergy.co.uk)
- Has the ‘greenest government ever’ given up on carbon budgets? (leftfootforward.org)
- Tories mount a campaign against their own energy policy (leftfootforward.org)
- The Independent: It May Be All Over For Green Cause (junkscience.com)
- Top Tories try to torpedo Green Deal (telegraph.co.uk)
- No easy answers to green energy. (independent.co.uk)
- Beecroft report: Show bottle over labour laws, Tories tell David Cameron (thisislondon.co.uk)
- Poll suggests a growing tide of anti-Europe sentiment is pushing Cameron’s Tory voters to UKIP (dailymail.co.uk)
- William Hague tells ministers to help green industries boost economy (guardian.co.uk)
The badger is back in the news, and not because it’s loved… The counties for the planned cull have now been revealed – see my Learn From Nature blog
Below … the badger goes to court!
The battle for the badger has begun in earnest, with the opening shot of a high court legal battle being fired, a complaint made under European wildlife law and a new public opinion poll showing just 12% of people think killing badgers should be the main focus in attempting to reduce the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.
How did it get to this? Pretty easily. The government was under severe pressure to tackle what is truly a terrible problem for infected herds – they have to be slaughtered at great financial and emotional cost to farmers and to the taxpayer, who paid £90m in compensation for the 25,000 cattle killed in 2010. Environment secretary Caroline Spelman had a world-class scientific trial, conducted over 10 years, on her desk showing that persistent culling of badgers over a decade can cut bovine TB by about 16%.
So far so good. But to expand the cull using the trap-and-shoot method of killing employed in the trial would be even more expensive than doing nothing. So the government gave the go-ahead for the cull using “free-shooting” – a man in a tree with a high-powered rifle. At this point, the “science-led” tag Spelman used to justify the go-ahead disappeared in a puff of gun-smoke, and that’s not just me saying it but lots of the scientists who ran the 10-year-trial.
There will be a tiny trial of free-shooting, but if it is shown to be ineffective, the whole cull is fatally wounded. That’s one of the three legal grounds the Badger Trust is using to seek a judicial review in the high court of Spelman’s decision. As it happens, even if free-shooting is judged acceptable, the government’s own impact assessment shows the culls will still be more expensive for farmers than doing nothing and taking the hit – hideous as that is – of TB infection. And that’s without accounting for the legal challenges and the high costs of policing shooter-versus-activists stand-offs in the woods at night.
What does the public think? A new poll, published on Tuesday, shows us that 31% support the cull, 40% oppose it and a lot of people – 29% – don’t know. The poll was a professional one, run by YouGov, for the animal protection charity Humane Society International (HSI), whose UK director Mark Jones said: “The majority of the public oppose killing badgers, but the poll also indicates a significant level of indecision or confusion and I suspect that this stems from uncertainty surrounding the issue of whether or not a cull is ‘science-led’. Defra has consistently claimed that its cull policy would be science-led and yet the scientific legitimacy of culling badgers has been vociferously questioned by highly respected scientists and conservationists such as Lord Krebs [who led the 10-year trial] and Sir David Attenborough.”
YouGov also asked people what they though should be the main tool for dealing with bovine TB. Culling was backed by 12%, as was restricting cattle movements and reforming farm practices, and 15% didn’t know. But the most popular choice by far was vaccination, which was backed by 60% of people in England.
Vaccination programmes are taking place right now and trapping and injecting badgers is expensive, though it can hardly cost much more than trapping and shooting them. Back in 2010, the previous government said an oral vaccine would be ready by 2015, which could be left in bait, a much cheaper way to innoculate the animals.
But the new coalition government cancelled five of the six vaccination trials set up. Spelman now says a useable vaccine is “years away”, which certainly helps bolster the case for shooting badgers, if not pleasing the English public. I estimate the cull will cost £92m, plus legal and policing costs, over eight years, while vaccination research is getting just £20m.
HSI has also brought a complaint against Spelman via the Bern Convention, which binds the UK government to regulate any exploitation of badgers to keep populations “out of danger”, unless certain conditions are met.
So, we have a “science-led” cull disowned by the researchers who led the science and one that will cost more than doing nothing. Everyone’s first choice – vaccination- has lost funding, and the row is now in the expensive realm of the courts. This is not on track to end well for badgers, cattle, farmers, scientists or the taxpayer.
- Wildlife Update : Let’s blame the badger, shall we… ? (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Jilly Cooper signs up to campaign against badger cull (telegraph.co.uk)
- Anger as badger culling given go-ahead for next year (independent.co.uk)
- Green light for badger cull trial (bbc.co.uk)
- Farmers given right to shoot badgers over bovine TB fears (mirror.co.uk)
- Animal campaigners criticise badger cull (independent.co.uk)
- Badger culling to go ahead in two areas (independent.co.uk)
- Slaughtering badgers is not the answer to bovine TB | Patrick Barkham (bfreenews.com)
- Slaughtering badgers is not the answer to bovine TB | Patrick Barkham (guardian.co.uk)
- You: Badger culling will go ahead in 2012 (guardian.co.uk)
The Pros and Cons of zoos are many and varied – here’s an example of an advantage which includes ‘Environmental education‘. Mark Kinver, Environment Reporter at BBC online explains
A UK zoo has launched a website that it hopes will help bridge a growing divide between young people and conservation.
It will allow users to find out more about the effort to save species, put questions to staff working around the globe and follow their fieldwork.
Organisers hope it will help establish a network of online conservationists.
The zoo commissioned a poll that showed that 66% of adults felt that 10-year-olds were more interested in technology than wildlife.
The survey of 2,094 adults, conducted by YouGov, also found that 94% of adults felt that biodiversity conservation was important, yet only 15% actively helped a cause.
“The survey is a somewhat depressing summary of the world today,” said Dr Mark Pilgrim, Chester Zoo’s director general.
“While we are playing with games or chatting to our friends online, somewhere in the world at the same time, a rhino is being poached for its horn or a species is facing a battle for survival in its own territory.”
Starting at home
As well as supporting work to protect species such as orangutans, Asian elephants and black rhinos, Act for Wildlife has also included a project called UK Wildlife.
“Although it is not the sort of work people would normally associated with a zoo, we are a UK-based organisation, and we must not forget that conservation also needs to start at home,” explained project manager Michelle Duma.
“It is no good us going out and working on projects in Africa or Asia and getting people to care about their wildlife, if we cannot do that here in the UK.”
Ms Duma told BBC News that a web-based resource was “absolutely the way to go”.
“Not only does it allow our zoo visitors to go online and see what is happening and keep up to date with our projects, but it also means that we can broaden our reach and talk to the whole of the UK and further afield,” she said.
“The projects that Act for Wildlife is supporting are sending us regular updates on what they have been up to, information about themselves. What we are trying to do is for project members to tell their story themselves.”
One example was project members in Assam, India, posting images of their work with local villages to reduce conflicts between people and elephants.
“Then people can ask questions and engage in a conversation,” Ms Duma added. “If they want to know more about a particular thing, they just have to ask.”
- Rhinos are on the rise after surviving war and poachers in Nepal (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Visit an Elephant, Support Conservation (prweb.com)
- Humanity the ‘destroyer’ … but we can fix things, too! (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Brazil’s wildlife and the UK’s response – we have a choice and cannot allow these species to disappear! (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Vietnam’s elephants to be extinct in ten years (lookatvietnam.com)
- Remembering New Zealand saviour of wildlife (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Green: How Sending a Letter Can Help Save Wildlife (green.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Why are Angry Mobs of People Killing Wildlife in India? (bushwarriors.wordpress.com)
- Collective conservation efforts boosted rhino population in Nepal (eurekalert.org)
- A Guide to the Endangered Animal Species (brighthub.com)