I presume like most people approaching 50 years old (2022), the milestone is a cause for reflection and comparing ambition to success to date and perhaps re-setting targets and even accepting limitations. In other words taking that necessary step closer to giving up on all your dreams and dying.
One ambition I had was to do a public duty and to champion the creation of the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve. It was my local patch where I had discovered birding so seemed like no better cause. As it was a community goal to be delivered by a stakeholder group (an open mic situation) that wasn't achieving very much I decided to appoint myself. At the time I had recently become single and part of that breakup was due to different values- basically I didn't want to go down the road of making loads of money and lording it up over my fellow peasants. I guess I was quite philosophical and was willing to pay a high price for it (she was fucking gorgeous and sexy)- there must be more to life than just individualism. I decided the best thing I could do is go back to where I was brought up and try and make that area a better place to be and at the centre of that was the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve. It seemed like a good idea. It seemed like the right thing to do.
In that time I have successfully achieved the following:
1) Published the book, the Birds of Beddington Farmlands which a Birdwatch review described as a local bird group bench mark. The objective here was to a have a complete published avifauna of the site to build further research and an ornithological community on.
2) Resurrected the local bird and wildlife report and re-designed and re-vamped it, expanded its remit to cover other taxa in addition to birds and also to include papers, analysis and conservation updates. I've edited and published this report since 2012. The objective here was to consolidate all the data from on going surveys to guide the restoration of the site and to form a nucleus for bird group members and ecologists to feed into it and build a community hub.
3) Conducted, coordinated and collected species inventories on site for a wide range of taxa including birds, moths and butterflies, mammals, plants and other groups. That species inventory is currently on approx 2500 species.
4) Carried out intensive surveys on various taxa of the site, particularly moth recording. I even bought a flat over looking the site so that I be recording non-stop. Found loads of new species for the site from that 'obs'.
5) With the help of friends particularly Lee Dingain we built a new website for the site and a social media platform to raise awareness of the importance of the site and to build a natural history community. The reach of that internet platform is up to 13,000 people on a regular basis.
6) Working with a local team of volunteers (namely Lysanne, Danielle and Sue) I wrote the biodiversity and environmental policies for the Hackbridge Neighbourhood Plan with the objective of writing Beddington Farmlands into the local planning framework (its already a priority in the London Plan and Sutton Plan) with the objective to develop Hackbridge into the hub of the Wandle Valley Regional Park to optimise the benefit and impact of the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve.
7) We implemented various aspects of that plan to meet that aim including building a new entrance to Beddington Farmlands at Hackbridge and also carried out biodiversity improvements in the area including rain gardens, wildlife gardens, green space improvements and new signage and access points through an OLF Project worth a couple of hundred thousand pounds. This was mainly Bioregional but I was helping out.
8) We completed pre-feasibility studies to develop visitor facilities in Hackbridge for Beddington Farmlands and raised over £60,000 to this end. Again Bioregional led.
9) I led on a formal complaint that escalated to a Local Government Ombudsman Investigation that effectively put pressure on the council to enforce planning conditions on Viridor to deliver the reserve. Following a petition hosted by the Wandle Forum that collected 6500 signatures we successfully assisted in establishing a top tier accountability and delivery structure for the reserve through the Housing, Economy and Business Committee where Viridor have to face the public and council every six months to explain their latest progress with the reserve and answer questions if failing.
10) I could go on and on but off the top of my head I've also led loads of public walks, helped out in the judicial review agaisnt the building of the incinerator on site, I sat on the Conservation Science Group for many years, I got nominated for the BTO marsh awards for excellence in local ornithology and campaigning (and for our report), I was nominated by Birdwatch for conservation hero of the year 2019, I have led various other campaigns, was a founding member of the local Extinction Rebellion group that effectively got a climate and ecological emergency declared in the London Borough of Sutton (with Beddington Farmlands at the epicentre of that) and also doing a joint campaign with them for the Save the Lapwings campaign and also kept up the birding of the site and from what I can work I've found a good percentage of all the rare birds found at Beddington over the last few years.
So what's the big suppression all about then? Well basically, I'm a man of science, reason and evidence and I would suggest that there appears to be quite a bit of evidence that I have been overall successful with championing the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve. I'm not perfect but considering I do this alongside running a highly successful local company and I run other projects, there seems to be a strong evidence base that I know what the fuck I'm doing and there's no good reason for anyone to not get behind it.
Which is why I ask myself the following questions. When a freedom of information request investigation by local journalists uncovered what appeared to be Viridor's site ecologist and the head of the London Borough of Sutton's biodiversity department discrediting me- referring to the bird group as disparate with Derek Coleman being the only scientist, referring to me as an agent provocateur (I wasn't even involved in activism at that stage) and then following that the London Borough of Sutton removed me from the Conservation Science group- (catch a breath) -and when I told the other bird group members about this and asked them to support me and file complaints agaisnt MKAEcology and the council and ask for my reinstatement on the management committees of the reserve (considering it would appear I am the most important person on it- from my track record as the Champion ) , the bird group more or less told me to fuck off and die and they supported Marcus Kohler instead. Derek Coleman another member of the bird group even voted me off the committee. I resigned from the exec committee as a result but following a period of great success on other farmlands fronts and the need for the bird group to get moving to keep up I rejoined and volunteered to be group secretary- hoping following even more massive successes (including the establishment of the top tier delivery board) and nominations for national awards they might see that I may actually be useful and now they might support me. I tried that for the last six or seven months and the bird group didn't respond to my emails, are not participating in the digitisation of records (that will be essential when the site opens to the public), haven't backed me again when I've called for support in ensuring that our bird groups reps that replaced me on the CSG are optimised and basically have sent another clear message - fuck off and die.
Well, I intend to do just that, to leave this whole project (I've done enough and critically we finally have a warden now that can basically take over a lot of what i was doing- I've been hanging in there for this), maybe concentrate on a legal case when all the deadlines are missed in 2023 and prosecute the council, viridor, MKAecology and the bird group for corruption. That could be a laugh. I've already started exploring this with ClientEarth, Linked and XR lawyers. Despite my best efforts and doing everything I could from our end ultimately we have been let down by Viridor not creating the habitat and the council not enforcing conditions and being apologists and advocates for them and the bird group encouraging the corruption and not backing the challenges I attempted. Both Viridor and the council and their sycophants including within the bird group have persecuted me. The s106 agreement has not been fulfilled, the conservation management scheme has not been implemented and as a result all the conservation targets have been missed, the local important bird populations have collapsed and the Save the Lapwing campaign is the last ditch attempt at salvaging the our last remaining important (red data list) breeding target species. The planning system has completely failed, beddington is now a site of local extinction, the bird group logo the Tree Sparrows are even extinct now, the law has not been upheld and there is almost certainly a major legal case in there. I would very much enjoy to prosecute everyone involved in that- if there is a way.
I'm hoping to move out of the area and concentrate on more high brow birding projects. In the meantime just to amuse myself, which brings us to the big suppression, I was thinking of suppressing any rare birds that I find from the bird group. I'd like to leave with some bridges burnt to make sure I cant get back to this fucking hellhole. Some of the people who have fucked me over are like children so perhaps need to be treated like children and their sweeties taken away. Yes indeed its a bit of gamble because they might find something that I'd like to see. However I've seen 223 species at beddington and they've seen much less so the chances of them finding something i need is less. Perhaps they might even try harder to grip me off- that would be nice to see them putting their backs into something and fighting something at least.
So what have I learnt? I think maybe I was wrong and my ex partner was right. She appears to be doing very well now with an international business and multiple properties around the world. I've got nothing but a deep feeling of bitterness to the world when I think about all this. I understand individualism now, and I understand why Capitalism dominates the planet. No matter what an individual does for society, that society will not reciprocate. There is it would appear no such thing as society. Some people are energised and clever and most are not. The energised ones can either choose to milk the others, keep their wages low, keep them desperate and infighting and drain them and do something good with the milk (like enjoy themselves and forms paradises for the rich from the misery of the poor) or they can try and lead others into fighting agaisnt that and creating a more equal world and build something better and less fucked up, after all individualism seems like a very short term plan because eventually we will have a world run by fewer and fewer individuals and more people existing solely to be drained (including their birding local patches)- oh wait, those global oligarchs and billionaires, the ones that now own Beddington Famlands- we are already there!
So indeed what have I learnt? I don't know. I don't really want to be a capitalist bastard but working tirelessly for a bunch of ungrateful fucks that betray you constantly isn't much fun either. The same thing happens at work but I dont mind because I'm milking it there- so getting paid for being fucked over. The volunteer stuff is for fucking free! Surely I would get more satisfaction by switching sides, concentrating on my business, getting revenge on all those fuckers who have fucked me over and retiring on my own private nature reserve, bitter and twisted but with psychotic satisfaction rather than bitter, angry and unsatisfied. I could become a mini-capitalist- I certainly understand why they do it now. I'm even tempted to help Viridor fuck over the local community and join them in getting a boot in.
To gauge my own sense of worth I often think to myself, what would I like Jacob to be or do. Certainly not me is all i know. I will almost certainly be teaching him in the ways of individualism. Maybe I shouldn't throw out the baby with the bath water, maybe I've overdone the collective stuff. Perhaps best he focuses 90% of his time on looking after no 1 and 10% and others and nature as opposed to my botched experiment with little oak group which is 50/50, where I made the assumption that individualism and collectivism were equally efficient. I don't think it is now-unless there is some kind of time delay in collectivism- a longer more complex path but equally efficient? Will see if any seeds that have been sown eventually germinate.
Who fucking knows, I think I'm just going to be a suppressor for a while to see if sheds any light on my existential crisis.