The Dark Side

surveying

Many people want a job in wildlife conservation but not all will work to protect what they love.

Like many people when I am angry about something which I care passionately about my views can become polarised. My opinions can be black and white about ‘them’ and ‘us.’ So when I see the continuous destruction of our countryside in the current rush of development there are only two types of Environmental Consultant, those on the light side and those on the dark. Those whose love and knowledge of wildlife is used to protect species and enhance the natural world and those who use their knowledge to aid companies who wish to cover our planet in concrete. I have often spoken of people who work for consultancies whose main work involves aiding development companies to remove wildlife and destroy habitat as soulless.

This spring, however, I have a man volunteering with me who works for one of the consultancy firms I see as being on the dark side. This man has a love of wildlife, he is a better birdwatcher than me and spends much of his free time surveying wildlife for free, should I really condemn him because he wants to work full time with wildlife and there aren’t enough jobs on the light side to go round? Like so many issues it is harder to shoot down the ‘enemy’ when you meet them and talk to them.

The problem is too many people are coming out of countryside management courses and off apprentice schemes and find that the only job available is ‘dark side’ consultancy work. Maybe some of these people begin thinking that what they are doing is ok. I myself have translocated species but only when the project will have an overall benefit for wildlife. Much of the work done by consultancies has no benefit for wildlife and is ill thought out and not followed through.

If development companies were forced to provide adequate compensatory habitat for that destroyed and pay for it’s long term management then maybe I would be more in favour of translocation. Maybe if developers were made to do this then they would be more willing to renovate some of our existing empty buildings and former industrial sites instead of building new ones on wildlife rich habitat. Instead companies move species to inappropriate locations already packed to the rafters with other translocated creatures and do no follow up monitoring to understand whether their work has been a success.

But could I personally do more to help people like my volunteer by taking on staff of my own? I potentially could if there didn’t seem to be so many barriers in the way of doing so. If the Government didn’t penalise small business’s wishing to offer people paid experience by making the whole business of taking someone on such a nightmare of legal constraints, tax issues and insurances. Giving people the sort of work a small business can manage seems to be frankly illegal and way, way too complicated to bother with.

My volunteer wishes to move on from doing work for developers. He wants to work for one of the good guys and I could give him the experience he needs to do so but, while the laws regarding small business’s are so top heavy and restrictive, he will have to continue to do so in his spare time for free and, like many others, will be tempted to stay in the dark.

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2 thoughts on “The Dark Side

  1. Nice blog carol. Another option for ’employing’, (which you have probably considered) staff could be to have them work as self-employed contractor to you. Then it would be up them to sort out their own tax etc.. I have worked this way in the past and it has worked well in a number of ways, although i didn’t get paid holiday/sick pay etc.. i did enjoy the flexibility and freedoms it offered.
    On another subject, did you see tonight’s Countryfile on the Hoo peninsula? A place you love. It was great to see some of the characters we used to know and love such as Keith Loverage, the ‘Save the Marshes’ trio, all looking so well trio and even Julian Nash looking rather tubby! Those were the days……….
    Cheers, Barry

    • I have had people self employed but it offers so little security to young people that I end up loosing them to more stable jobs and who can blame them. Even the rules around contractors are getting very tight and you just feel that you’re ducking and diving around endless rules. I haven’t seen the Hoo peninsula thing yet but if it’s got all the characters on it then I will tune in on the iplayer in a minute. If only diggerman had still been around to add some extra spice x

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