Why Nature Conservation Isn't Working attempts to put species into the context of our perception. Animals are more than their physical form. They exist within their historical setting, within their habitats, within their past and their evolutionary future, both outside and beyond man, and within man and his circle. This work discusses the movement of species since the last ice age, what is native and non-native, migration, adaptation, the role of man and species in the industrial landscape. The concept of species lies at the heart of nature conservation, but our perception is changing and losing connection with the real world. We see wildlife as adjuncts to people, such as a cure for depression and isolation. With this view, we will never save wildlife from extinction.
This book investigates the authenticity of species, compared with what are termed McDonald's species – species without natural connection with their habitats, super-imposed by Man, eroding the umbilical cord link with history. We have lost sight of what wildlife is about and instead are just managing decline. Concentration on large iconic species achieves brilliant publicity but looks after the icing whilst the cake crumbles beneath.
Why Nature Conservation Isn't Working highlights the need for authenticity in wildlife. We need to accept where wildlife goes, minimising our interference, re-directing money towards where wildlife wants to be – in new as well as old habitats, by natural colonisation, in post-industrial landscapes, brown-field sites, railway corridors, metal-contaminated landscapes. It takes rewilding and makes it species led – where ugly animals thrive to the same extent as beautiful ones, where the minute are as important as the huge.
Chapter 1: The Existential Species
Within our possession/ownership
An extension of ourselves
Representing aspects of our psyche and civilization
Chapter 2. Species in Historical Continuum
Chapter 3. Native or Non-native
Chapter 4. The Role of Man
Allow to live with us
Release – into the wild
Introduce – accidentally
Chapter 5. Migrant Species
Chapter 6. Species in the Industrial Landscape
High Speed One (HS1)
Butterflies and roads
The Peppered Moth
Chapter 7. The Artificiality of Our Understanding
Appendix: What Are Species?
Adrian Spalding has run an environmental consultancy for over 20 years and has worked with wildlife charities, statutory authorities, council planners, developers, highways agencies, railway companies and renewable energy companies throughout the UK. He has travelled widely on six of the seven continents. He is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, a member of the Conservation Committee of the Royal Entomological Society, editor of the Entomologist’s Gazette, former President of the British Entomological and Natural History Society, former Academic Director, Cornish Biological Records Unit (University of Exeter) and past member of the Council of Butterfly Conservation. A qualified teacher, he also has degrees in history and zoology. He used to host a weekly wildlife programme on Radio Cornwall. He has written several books on wildlife and won the Holyer and Gof prize for his book Loe Bar and the Sandhill Rustic Moth. His interest in butterflies and moths dates back to when he was eight years old, watching an Indian Moon Moth emerge from its cocoon and expand its long tails on the living room window sill; the moth Spalding’s Dart is named after him.
"[...] Adrian Spalding believes that conservationists have gone rather over the top in relatability, in the idea that people and wildlife are inextricably linked in a sort of master-servant relationship. [...] Spalding thinks that all this is wrong, that wild species have an existence entirely separate from Homo sapiens in time and space, in their lives, in their habitat, and in their evolutionary and historical past (and future). Wild animals are not a version of ourselves and we should respect their integrity, their separateness. [...] I suspect that many naturalists will have sympathy with this view and are mildly dismayed at the way in which nature conservation has morphed into the micromanagement of a largely human agenda. Spalding pads out his argument with examples, especially butterflies and moths, but they are so many and so lengthy that they tend to distract more than enlighten. And just when one might expect to find a summary and perhaps some practical advice, it ends abruptly, as though there were nothing more to say. Like most of us, the author is happiest when he is talking about natural history, and his own encounters with wildlife around the world. The unstated subtext is that naturalists tend to make poor administrators and that good administrators are seldom good naturalists. That, I suspect, is the reality behind the abstractive talk about perception, connection and illusion."
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 33(1), October 2021