Nets Down for Nature: when people power works for wildlife

There is rarely any cause for hope in the environmental field. Indeed, everywhere we look, habitats are being erased, ecosystems dismantled and vulnerable species pushed ever closer to the brink of annihilation. It can be grim, at times, and outright depressing at others.

Every once in a while, however, something bucks the trend – the airwaves this week rife with positivity and triumph, as opposed to shock and sorrow. I am of course talking about the successful campaign launched against the damaging bird netting used all too frequently by developers and local councils to spare them the inconvenience of nesting birds.

The uproar centred on this issue has been unprecedented, taking the airwaves and internet by storm in little over a week. In that time, 330,000 people have signed a petition demanding the netting of trees and hedges by developers be made illegal; countless individuals have bombarded the inboxes of MP’s and councillors [to great effect], and others have resorted to direct action – to the tracking, reporting and even removal of nets – in order to spare nature this latest bout of agony. People across the country have rallied together in disgust and concern and, thankfully, it seems to have worked!

All across social media, examples of people power successfully landing a victory for nature have been apparent. First, there were the tweets of numerous MP’s, including the Environment Secretary, keen to hop aboard the bandwagon and support the campaign. Next, there were the developers, leaping into action to spare themselves the wrath of the infuriated public: nets came down, apologies were issued and promises with regards to best practice were abruptly made. Finally, there was the resounding defeat of North Norfolk Council who, after a failed attempt to justify the exclusion of Sand Martin’s from a large expanse of breeding habitat at Bacton, backtracked remarkably and set about removing nets.

All of this may not seem particularly important in the long run – netting is, after all, a relatively small issue in the grand scheme of things, at least when compared to habitat loss, agriculture, pesticides, persecution and the like. However, like these, netting is a symptom of our societies widespread disregard for the natural world – a sorry sign of the low-value we place upon nature and our tendency to bend it to our will whenever it poses the slightest inconvenience. With that in mind, a victory for those at the heart of the #NetsDownForNature campaign is a victory not just over greedy developers and ignorant councils, but over the prevailing attitude towards wildlife.

The recent uproar over netting has displayed people power at its finest and represents a triumph for those seeking to alter the collective mindset with regards to the natural world. All involved should be immensely proud and I, for one, am grateful to those who took a stand.


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