An Evening with Chris Packham, the Royal Hall, Harrogate, 19 Oct.
Chris Packham praised the ‘punk rock’ spirit of young people including Extinction Rebellion, for standing up for a world that’s “toxic, poisoned and dying” in a talk in Harrogate.
The evening, hosted by Cause UK and supported by The Wild Watch in Nidderdale AONB, included a Q&A from TV presenter and Wild Watch Patron, Lindsey Chapman. The night saw a protest outside the venue, from the local shooting fraternity, chanting “Pack it in Packham”
Packham said: “There’s a lot of really good farmers out there doing good things, but some of the spokespeople for their fraternity are not doing them any favours, and they’ve got quite a loud voice, so therefore you get this division and conflict and that doesn’t work. We don’t want division and conflict – we want co-operation and creative progress. There’s some brilliant farmers doing brilliant things, not just for wildlife, but for food; it can happen.”
Packham spoke up for farmers saying: “If I was a farmer I’d get sick of conservationists banging on my door asking me to do this that and the other when they all go down to the supermarket buying milk from Eastern Europe at a price that’s being sold at a loss by Tesco’s. Until we start to support that fraternity and give them a sustainable future, and pay them properly for what they do, then I don’t think that we’re going to make too much progress, and we’ve got to work far more co-operatively.”
He also spoke up against the shooting fraternity.
“There’s plenty of people who shoot in the UK sustainably and legally, but they’re not standing up against the bad apples and there’s quite a lot of bad apples – particularly in the driven grouse shooting fraternity. I get increasing correspondence from shooters who are embarrassed by it saying it’s besmirching their reputation. It can be solved far easier from the inside if they sorted out their own problems. We’re asking for a ban on driven grouse shooting, that’s pretty draconian, but we wouldn’t be doing that if they sorted out all these people killing the hen harriers, and golden eagles, and kites.”
Packham also spoke candidly of his Asperger’s, saying nature, and walking his dogs in the woods, helped with his mental health.
“It offers a real therapy, it’s not prescribed but it works. I’m trying to get the BBC to make a programme about it. I can’t put into scientific terms what happens to me mentally and physiologically when I go into the woods with the poodles, but I can feel it. But now scientists are trying to research that…there are very definite measurable, quantifiable and positive changes that are made being in nature.”
Packham concluded that he felt optimistic about the future despite the loss of ’90 million birds from the UK countryside’.
“I’m going to fight the last stand,” he said. “I came into a world that was in a better state than it is now and I feel guilty and I feel a sense of shame for that. We’ve lost since 1970, 90 million birds from the UK countryside… gone on my watch. So I will work harder, as hard as I can, till the bitter end to try and make a difference. That’s a personal thing.”
“I think the Extinction Rebellion is optimistic, regardless of debating their methods, there’s a conscience and a consciousness there, which is being expressed by young people, and we’re seeing it expressed far more in all aspects of media. And we’re beginning to translate all of that care into action. If people do empower themselves they can make a difference. I do think if I’m being pragmatic about it that the next 25 years will be really uncomfortable, the human species is much better at cure than prevention, which is unfortunate when you think of all the things that we’ve had thrown at us. Even in the last 100 years, the World Wars, how we’ve developed technologies – not all destructive – how we’ve overcome diseases with the invention of drugs – when we get pushed into a corner we always come out, we are resourceful, adaptable and intelligent; but we’ll get pushed into a corner first and that’s such a shame, we could be fixing it now.”
Chris said: “We’ve watched previous generations fix their problems – our one is a bigger one – and politically we’re in a very bad place to get it started at the moment, but again when you look at the history of politics, particularly 21st century politics, very often you have to hit rock bottom before you start bouncing back. And I just hope that we’re at rock bottom because it can’t get much worse, can it?”