“Nature reserves are becoming natural art installations,” he told The Guardian. “It’s just like looking at your favourite Constable or Rothko. We go there, muse over it, and feel good because we’ve seen a bittern or some avocets or orchids. But on the journey home there’s nothing – only wood pigeons and non-native pheasants and dead badgers on the side of the road.
“It’s catastrophic and that’s what we’ve forgotten – our generation is presiding over an ecological apocalypse and we’ve somehow or other normalised it.”
The naturalist and broadcaster recently caused a stir with his tweets about the absence of insects from his home in the middle of the New Forest national park, which should be a prime location for bugs. He shared his dismay after failing to spot a single butterfly all weekend.
I’ve been in my garden in Hampshire for the last couple of days . Sunny , plenty of wildflowers . Not a single butterfly . Not one . Nothing . And in the woods a handful of Speckled Woods . I think we are at a point of absolute crisis in our countryside .
Each night I read the stats on our Springwatch birds . . . Marsh Tit -75% , Yellowhammer -56% , Willow Warbler -44% , Yellow Wagtail -67% , Skylark -59% , Corn Bunting -89% and I just wonder how much worse we need to let it get before we actually do something . . .
We conservationists keep trotting these figures out to the point that it’s become ‘normal’ , somehow acceptable , to the point that it doesn’t shock us anymore . Except it isn’t normal or acceptable it’s totally catastrophic . We need to wake up and smell the extinction brewing
Packham is now urging people to join him in July for a “bioblitz”, where participants will spent ten days visiting road verges, farmland, parks, allotment and nature reserves to take stock of what wildlife remains. The initiative should help highlight the plight of the swifts, who are in decline, and will draw on the enthusiasm of amateur naturalists across the country.
“We need a peaceful public uprising,” he said. “We need people to say we’ve had enough. We do that every time there’s a terror attack. We need a similar movement for nature. We need people to stand up and say we want action now. We have the ability to fix our countryside.”
Ellie Harrison and Chris Packham (Andy Earl, Radio Times)
Through Springwatch, Packham gets the chance to work close to nature every day – but it was while filming on the National Trust’s Sherborne estate in the Cotwolds that he “despaired”.
He told the newspaper: “How many wildflowers can we see? None. Where’s the pink of ragged robin? Where’s the yellow of flag iris? The other colours are not there. It’s not green and pleasant – it’s green and unpleasant.”