Unless we – humanity at large – farm in ways that are friendly to wildlife, then the cause of conservation worldwide is more or less dead in the water. At the very least, wildlife conservation will be holed below the water-line. Encouragingly, even in this neoliberal age when nothing seems to matter except money, the EU and Defra have introduced a whole list of restrictions and incentives to mitigate the ill-effects of too much industrial chemistry and heavy engineering – not least in requiring farmers to leave field edges, a few metres wide around the periphery, uncultivated.
But as our conservation correspondent Garry Jones pointed out in this website a few months ago, what really matters is not the edge of the field, but the middle. The edges may contain at least a pastiche of the original native flora, and some insects to go with it, but if the middle is a monocultural desert, then this is hardly more than tokenism. Now, in his latest article – see under “Conservation” in the College section – he expands the theme. On the negative front he outlines what has already been lost – far more than most people are aware of. Even more to the point, in very positive vein, he argues that wildlife-friendly farming can be win-win: obviously aesthetically superior and morally too (since it is surely reprehensible to wipe out our fellow species); but also more productive over all but the shortest time-scale, and obviously more sustainable, and hence far better for humanity and for the fabric of the Earth.
So why don’t we do the things that are so obviously sensible and worthwhile?
Answers on a postcard.