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RESTORE NATURE NOW (and stop scapegoating the squirrels)

Organized by Chris Packham, a TV celebrity using his public status to achieve  maximum benefit for the environment, Restore Nature Now was an event in Central London, starting with a gathering in Park Lane, followed by a march to Partiament Square and a rally there, complete with speeches and a bird song chorus.

The event was described, before it started, as potentially the biggest gathering for nature and climate in a generation. It is always hard to estimate exactly how many people there are when one is in the middle of it, but it certainly looked, felt and sounded impressive.

Yes, Urban Squirrels representatives were there, with our flags, ready to explain to anyone who might be willing to listen that grey squirrels are actually often scapegoated for the ecological crimes of humans. After all, what are the biggest threats to the environment? Climate change and intensive farming. But in order to tackle this, a lot of work has to be done, and a lot of vested interest has to be opposed. How much easier to blame it all on grey squirrels, they cannot defend themselves and the people who defend them are not at all powerful.

A concrete example of how this scapegoating happens is the construction of the HS2 railway link to the North of England. Ancient woodland which took hundreds of years to develop was destroyed to make way for the building project. New trees were planted in its place. It is obvious that this kind of planting, though a praiseworthy activity in itself, in no way makes up for destroying a complex ancient ecosystem. So, in what looked like a distraction tactic, several statements were made by government representatives alleging that reforestation cannot be achieved without “controlling” (i.e. “killing”) grey squirrels, because they supposedly damage trees. The thing is, when squirrels feed on trees, they merely, and that not very often, change the tree’s appearance, whereas human activity actually does destroy woodland!

Which is why the flags that we carried said, “Respect sentient life!” and “The greys are innocent!” It is by no means certain that anyone would listen, but the message had to be delivered!

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