A year ago, I reflected on the forthcoming Brexit negotiations and focus on fishing rights. Now, the deal is done. The desensitised UK fishing industry, which is responsible for only 0.12% of the overall economy, feels betrayed. But the real disaster of overfishing, illegal fishing and plastic ghost gear left in oceans killing wildlife was already set in motion decades ago. This was worsened recently by the EU agreeing to exceed scientifically established fishing quotas, partially blaming the Brexit uncertainty to allow greater exploitation. What happened to the precautionary principle, i.e. accepting quotas lower than the recommended limits just to be on the safe side?

Each year, we hear more warning signs about fish and other marine species becoming vulnerable or threatened with extinction. We see pictures of massive trawlers scraping mile-long nets over the bottom of the seas, destroying nearly every living organism in their path. And fleets illegally catching fish further, deeper and in larger numbers around the world. All to satisfy a quick-lived sensory taste experience.

Until there is no more fish to ‘harvest’. The borders and seas around the UK may have been ‘reclaimed’ but today’s children will inherit an impoverished world. They will need the knowhow and tools to clean up the mess and pollution caused by our generation that willingly, knowingly, put greed before sense and sustainability.

Greta Thunberg is right: “We are still speeding in the wrong direction”. Not just when we’re side lining the climate emergency. But also when it comes to biodiversity; according to a paper published in the journal Nature Sustainability, the world faces widespread biodiversity loss in the coming decades unless the food industry is rapidly transformed, changing what people eat and how it is produced. And we don’t seem to be learning the lessons from pandemics, such as COVID-19, that clearly tell us our destruction of animals and nature is messing up the natural balance. And that keeping animals farmed in factory conditions is risky and inhumane, leading to antibiotic micro-organism resistance (AMR) and more zoonotic outbreaks of disease (these are diseases, like the current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, that are transmitted between animals and people).

We can’t really rely on elected politicians, although there seems to be some hope thanks to a more promising incoming Biden-Harris US administration. The private sector is not panacea either. A former colleague lamented that everything, including lifestyle choices and world views such as veganism, are being commercialised and now ‘owned’ by the (food) industry. What worries me more is that, as societies, we seem to become less critical in our thoughts, while we need critical thinking now more than ever.

Fortunately, we have new youth leaders, social media influencers with millions of followers spreading vegan and eco-friendly messages, inspiring role models, and nature lovers paving the way for a kinder and compassionate world. Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin’s new book Back To Nature: How To Love Life – And Save It is the perfect 2020/2021 antidote. They describe in raw honesty, and the occasional rage against the machine, how urgently we need to take action, what individual actions we can take, including participating more in conservation directly and valuing the wonderful wildlife, and relationship with animals and nature around us.

Indeed, during lockdown, many people regained an interest in nature, and started noticing more wildlife in and around their gardens and towns. Let’s celebrate this newly found appreciation and hope it will spark a further interest in protecting and saving our precious environment, water, lands and animals, around the world in 2021.

Thank you for being a part of the solution!

Happy New Year and let’s hope it’s a kinder and more sensible one for all!