Europe and Central Asia
11 May 2015

Nature alert. Commission alerted

© John W. Anderson
By Luca Bonaccorsi

It’s a tale of two miracles. The first: over 100 NGOs, in 28 European capitals, are launching a campaign today to stop Juncker’s attack against the laws that protect Nature. The second? By re-reading the Directives we’ve rediscovered an idea of Europe we can love: one of a community that protects its nature.   

People don’t care about EU politics, and European institutions are irrelevant to a citizens’ daily concerns. Right? Well… no, think again.

In fact, as you are reading this, over 100 NGOs across Europe are simultaneously launching a campaign to mobilise the population in defence of the rules that protect nature, the Birds and Habitats Directives.

From Lisbon to Tallin, from Athens to London, to Paris, Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and all the way back south to Rome and Valletta, the environmental community will send the public and media a clear message: a very serious threat is coming from Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The first consequence (the first miracle!) of his declared intentions is probably not what he had in mind: a uniting of the varied and diverse community of Europeans who care about nature. Like the alarm bells calling farmers from the fields in old rural communities, Juncker’s plan to “merge and overhaul” the Directives has scared and set in motion the defenders of nature across the continent.

And even if this “initial push” comes from four large international networks of grassroot NGOs (BirdLife, the EEB, Friends of the Earth and WWF), one can be assured that more will join the battle. It’s just a matter of time before civil society, from the Vegan club in Stockholm to the eco-tourism associations, animal welfare groups, parents associations and other groups in Europe realise that their forests, beaches and animals are in grave danger. Not to mention the many responsible businesses, corporates and entrepreneurs that stand beside us (there is no economy on a dead planet, after all).

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Then, there is the second miracle. In a time when bashing the European Union is so common and easy, in this (almost) decade of “austerity” and austerity-induced recession, in which European policy makers have managed to alienate citizens and have taken the “European dream” to a historical low point in popularity... there has been a rediscovery of the beauty of good European laws and good European policy-making. Because in fact, when taking an intimate look at the Nature Directives, one re-establishes a connection to something all citizens like: good governance.

You cannot shoot birds while they’re raising their chicks. You cannot chop down all trees. You cannot drain all peatlands, block all rivers, plow all grasslands and pour concrete over the little unpaved land that remains. European legislators agreed to these principles years ago. We love that Europe. We have, Goethe would say, an “elective affinity” with those politicians. That is why, even where Europe is quite unpopular today, EU-inspired nature protection is appreciated.

It’s a double miracle then and one, disarming, consideration: with all there is to do in Europe, why undo Nature laws that work?

This sense of  “bewilderment” will only increase when you read the exceptionally compelling accounts by Ariel Brunner and Wouter Langhout that de-bunk all the propaganda and dis-information about the Nature Directives. One by one, all the myths behind the fraudulent narrative which is trying to hide the short-sighted, short-term-profit-oriented attack on nature, are exposed.

The Directives work, and there are rooms full of scientific literature to support this. Then why, you may ask, is Nature doing so badly in Europe? The short answer is implementation and enforcement: the rules are often ignored, interpreted poorly or applied wrongly. So “this” is what Juncker, Timmermans and Vella could usefully spend some time fixing instead.

We, the bird and biodiversity lovers, don’t often take to the streets. And we do not like to use  words like “enemy”. But there are enemies of nature out there. There is a Nature Alert now. And it’s not someone else’s problem. It’s our problem, because it’s our nature. And it’s your nature too. This is the time to step forward and have your voice heard.

Our campaign is called “It’s my nature” (#itsmynature). We have chosen this motto for a million reasons. Here are just three: 1) From the beginning of the modern economy we have called our natural resources “Common goods”. They belong to all of us, each and everyone of us. Air, water, biodiversity, life. Nature is the ultimate “common good”, and there must be a limit to what can be owned, consumed, sold, or destroyed. Because this air is my air, this water is my water, my bird, my tree, and my river. It’s my nature, and you can’t take it away from me. 2) Because “I am” the landscape where I grew up, the field where my father taught me football, the tree that shaded my first kiss, the colours and perfumes of flowers that announced Spring, the Seagulls on my roof that remind me that I am a sailor and should be out at sea. I am these things, they are me, we are connected. It’s my nature. And 3) Because human beings are not only about slash and burn. Not only about destruction. We care, we protect, we shelter and love. It’s our nature, it’s my nature (to protect Nature).

Now, please, go and make your voice heard.

Thank you !

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.