The Rubber Dodo Award 2019

The North American-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) – which works to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction, through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive – is launching its annual search for “the most outrageous eco-villain of 2019“.

As might be expected, given his apparent disregard for the environment, biodiversity, and wildlife (and clean air, clean water and pretty much anything else that we all depend on but which can’t be readily monetised), President Trump’s political appointees figure highly (again). (Trump himself picked up the faux-accolade in 2018. Previous recipients include Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (2017), Utah Congressman Rob Bishop (2016), Monsanto (2015), USDA’s Wildlife Services (2014), the Koch Brothers (2013), Sen. James Inhofe (2012), BP’s Tony Hayward (2010) and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008).)

The CBD’s list this time around includes yet more destructive North Americans linked to the President, many of whom are not household names over here but have CVs that explain clearly why the CBD are less than enamoured with them:

  1. David Bernhardt: “A longtime lobbyist for polluters, he’s worked for decades to weaken the Endangered Species Act. As interior secretary…Bernhardt has launched an all-out attack on protections for America’s wildlife”.
  2. Andrew Wheeler: Wheeler has “rescinded Obama’s Clean Power Plan, brutally overruled scientists, and gutted auto fuel-efficiency standards. He’s also slashed Clean Water Act protections…”.
  3. Stephen Miller: “This far-right advisor to the president is like the long-lost brain Trump never had. Sadly, that brain is racist. Miller has guided American immigration policy into the realm of outright inhumanity”. According to the CBD, he is also likely responsible for the “construction of a destructive border wall across precious wilderness”.
  4. Donald Trump Jr: The CBD holds a special contempt for the President’s trophy-hunting, endangered species slaying son, saying that “Donald the Younger’s never met an endangered species he doesn’t love to cuddle — once it’s dead.”

The temptation to just ink in the President’s name for as long as he holds office must have been almost irresistible, but these are all strong contenders.

Seeing a list like this naturally makes you wonder who might be nominated to a similar list this side of the pond.

We’re perhaps fortunate that over here our government is (on the surface anyway) less joined at the hip with rabid land speculators, deranged climate deniers (especially after shills like Nigel Lawson were purged from public debate), fossil fuel lobbyists, and as a population we’re no longer in thrall to the gun or the ‘tame the wilderness’ mentality we exported back in the 1800s. Even the pro-hunt politicians in Parliament lost standard-bearers like the hectoring Kate Hoey and Nicholas ‘famous relative’ Soames in the election last year), while the incoming Conservatives announced they wouldn’t be weakening the Hunting Act (not strengthening it either, but at least not weakening it).

We perhaps tend more towards making heroes rather than villains, embracing the wondrous Greta Thunberg and elevating David Attenborough up past Olympus and onto a new level of combined sage, oracle, galactic treasure, and world’s favourite grandfather. Having said that, of course we are still prepared to knock down ancient woodlands to save a few minutes rail journey, release tens of millions of non-native pheasants into a stressed and pesticide-drenched countryside, consider against all evidence that the Scottish Gamekeepers are a serious organisation whose opinions should be heard, and allow lobbyists from the NFU to demonise animals from the fox to the beaver.

No, we’re not perfect of course, but it does perhaps make it slightly more difficult to name and shame individuals as the CBD does in the US. They do also have the advantage of being largely staffed by lawyers, so perhaps taking a different line might be politic anyway…

Instead how about a shortlist of the ‘top’ eco-villainous practices that have occupied the first six months of The War on Wildlife Project?

Here are four things that (in our opinion) the UK would be better off without:

  1. Driven Grouse Shooting: Underpinned by wildlife crime and the large-scale trapping and snaring of native wildlife, DGS involves the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Red Grouse for fun and the destruction of rare upland habitats. Kill zones or nature reserves? It’s hard to argue seriously that the massacre should continue, and progress towards its demise marches ever onwards.
  2. Fox hunters: Committing wildlife crime while protected by the rural equivalent of soccer hooligans, fox hunters annoy the vast majority of the population with their disdain for the law, supercilious attitudes, and a callous disregard not only for native wildlife but the hounds they breed and discard. They should have been seen off by the passing of the Hunting Act 2004, but, through a continuing series of blunders and missteps,  seem to be finally heading that way under their own steam anyway.
  3. Badger cullers: Warmly embracing mercenaries and committing wildlife crime with permission from the government, ‘cull’ operatives roamed the countryside failing criteria for effectiveness and humaneness while intimidating pro-wildlife supporters under the watchful gaze of NFU-advised police forces. The cull isn’t working, is cruel, and vaccination is emerging as a viable alternative. Time to put those guns down perhaps…
  4. Being a Jeremy Clarkson wannabe: It takes a special type of person to write that Australia is burning because “God didn’t want people to live there”, but numerous lesser loudmouths have spewed bile across the internet since the summer (for example, Paul Dunstan who tweeted that he was looking forward to finding Chris Packham hanging from a piece of string – and then gave us permission to repost his tweet ad infinitum. What a dummy!) Arguably the world would be a kinder place without them.

A short list indeed, but think of it as a starting point. No doubt by the time we get to the end of our first twelve months the list will have grown longer…