Reflections - Author Interview

Reflections - Author Interview

by Sarah Stott on

Mark Avery talks to us about Reflections and his passion for improving the state of British wildlife. 


Could you tell us a little about your background and the journey that led to Reflections?
I've been interested in wildlife since I was a kid and I'm quite good at birds and a bit rubbish at most other taxa. I trained as a scientist and my PhD was on the winter activity of Pipistrelle Bats. I studied Bee-eaters' foraging and social behaviour in the Camargue and joined the RSPB Research department in 1986 working on upland afforestation in the Flow Country, Roseate Terns and a range of other species and issues. I stayed at the RSPB for 25 years and was Conservation Director for the last 13 of those years. Since leaving RSPB in 2011 I have written some books, been a trustee of the World Land Trust, founded Wild Justice with a couple of mates and been an independent campaigner on a range of issues, particularly calling for the banning of driven grouse shooting. Oh yes, and I've been married for 38 years, have a couple of grown-up kids and am now enjoying being a grandfather. That's a meandering journey but one where wildlife has been in my sights throughout.
The book reflects on our relationship with the wildlife around us; do any of your experiences in nature stand out as most memorable or impactful?
There have been so many. Just yesterday I was waiting at Wellingborough Station for a train into London when a female Sparrowhawk flew past carrying a large prey item. She seemed to be struggling to carry her load but managed. There were  around 40 people on the platform and only I paid her any attention. Now, that's not surprising but it is a parable of how few of us are tuned into nature. What can we do about that?
What was the biggest challenge you faced whilst writing the book?
Finding the time and finding the words. I had a great editor in Hugh Brazier (who is also a friend and a birder).
Who is the target audience for the book and what would you like readers to take away from it?
If you are interested in understanding the state of wildlife in the UK, and what can be done to improve it, then this is your book and I hope you'll enjoy it. Chapter 1 will entertain you and remind you of your own wildlife experiences. Chapter 2 will give you parts of the bigger picture of the long-term state of wildlife in our country. Chapter 3 will make you consider what wildlife conservation really is. Chapter 4 gives you some examples of conservation successes - it's not all gloom by any means. Chapter 5 analyses the reasons why we don't have more wildlife around us and Chapter 6 spells out some ways in which we could turn things around - and how you can be a part of it.
If you are a member of RSPB, a Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust or all the other wildlife conservation organisations then I think you'll get a lot from Reflections - I hope so, I was thinking of you while writing. If you work for, or are a trustee of, any of those organisations then I think you should read this book, and discuss it with your colleagues. And if you are a senior politician thrown into an environmental role which includes wildlife then reading this book will probably fill some gaps in your understanding.
Are you optimistic about the future of nature conservation in Britain?
I can see a better way forward and how to get there - read Chapter 6 (but probably after you've read Chapters 1-5)! But carrying on as we are won't deliver a better future. We have to do more, and better and slightly differently. And one of the messages of the book is that you and I have a big role to play in that, although not necessarily what you might think it is - that's why you should read Reflections!
What advice would you give someone looking to support wildlife conservation efforts?
Read proposals 5, 6 and 7 at the end of the book and then act on them!
Read proposals 5, 6 and 7 at the end of the book and then act on them!
Read proposals 5, 6 and 7 at the end of the book and then act on them!
Discover more about Reflections here

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