Posted 27 May 16Iolo Evans (pronounced 'Yollo Williams' is a leading television naturalist and presenter on BBC Television in the UK.
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TRANSCRIPT: IoLo Williams on the 'State of Nature'
I'm Welsh, and Welsh is my first language.
I am proud of the fact that I am Welsh, but tonight, I will be talking to you in English and that's because I don't want anything to be lost in translation, at all. I could have talked a little bit about the 'State of Nature Report', but I know that's going to be done now, in a bit, talk about the facts and figures.
The horrendous facts and figures if I was to be blunt, that are held within that report.
And in a short while, I know that Sir David Attenborough will be addressing people in London as well, and a more knowledgeable, a more erudite speaker, you couldn't hope to have.
He is to millions of people, all over the world, for hundreds of millions of people, the voice that wildlife until recently never had and I'm so glad that we've got him.
What I'm going to do is to talk to you about my own little patch of the world. It's an area that I've known for fifty years now and I've grown to love it, very much. It's not very big; it's roughly 210,000 Km2 . I call it 'Cymru', most of you will call it the country of Wales. It's a terrific place.
You can walk from mountain top to seashore in just two hours, and I was reminded just how stunning it is when I drove down here on a, a lovely May afternoon, sun shining, along the verges I saw cuckoo flowers with their delicate pink colours and briallu mair, a lovely Welsh name, cowslips too. Just a beautiful thing to behold, on the way down.
And if I may take you back to when I grew up, not when I was a little lad, but in my teens.
I'm going back now to the 1970's, to the area around LLanwddyn.
It's a wonderful area, it's where I was brought up, where my heart will always be.
And I spent so many hours and days with my little dog, Bittw, wandering all over the place.
Up on the moors, up on the Berwyn moors, looking at hen harriers and merlin and black grouse and these amazing carnivorous plants, sundews and butterwort and curlew, the bubbling call of the curlew.
Every valley had a pair of curlew.
Every valley had a cuckoo.
And then fishing; I used to do a lot of fishing when I was a young lad.
I used to cast my line in. I wasn't a very good fisherman.
You'd cast in, you'd watch the birds, you'd watch the wildlife.
You'd catch quite a few fish too. A lot of trout in there.
You'd take two, didn't matter if you caught ten, you'd take two and put whatever else you caught back in the river.
And while you were there you'd see water voles, lots of water voles and some of the banks were like bits of Swiss cheese with their burrows, all along there.
There were that many water voles. And the hay meadows too, along the River Vyrnwy, owned by the local farmers, Cled Dairy Farm and Parry Ty'n Y Maes.
We used to help with the harvest. Always a late harvest, July harvest, they'd cut the hay meadows.
And the hay meadows were incredible places then, full of flowers, full of grasshoppers.
That's what I remember. Swallows and house martins swooping low, feeding on the insects and the sound, the constant 'chirr', of grasshoppers.
Not the memory of a small child, I'm not looking back through rose-tinted glasses at all.
This is what I remember as a young lad and throughout my teens as well.
I've moved away. I've moved about thirty minutes away to live. I'll never leave mid Wales, except in a box.
And I still go back up there as often as I can, but it's not the same.
It's a changed place now. It's a changed place.
Yes, the people have changed, but the whole nature of that area has changed too.
The moors, still a few lovely things to see up there.
The hen harriers are there, the merlin are there. The curlew have gone.
Twenty four odd pairs when I used to live there. Three now.
I was talking to the warden. I was up there just yesterday. Three pairs left.
The valleys are quiet. Cuckoos? didn't hear a single one when I was up there yesterday.
You go down on to the rivers. Talking to an old boy I used to go fishing with. He's eighty-eight.
He said 'Iolo bach', he said, 'Do you know what, I hardly go anymore, very few fish there'.
It used to be a very odd day when you didn't catch anything. Now, you catch something it's a red letter day.
And the water voles, I walked the river, Dafarn Hill, the section of river where I used to fish yesterday.
Some of the holes are still there. The water voles are long, long gone.
Ninety percent of our water voles have gone in the last thirty years and the hay meadows, every single one has gone. Every single one.
Wales-wide, we've lost ninety-nine percent of our hay meadows, since the end of the Second World War. Ninety-nine percent.
And the moorland, my beloved moorland, I love the moors. I grew up on the moors, I love the moors.
Berwyn is one of the most important bit of moorland in southern Britain and probably the best protected.
Forty-four percent of those moors have gone. Forty-four percent has gone and even worse, the other side of the village, Llanbrynmair moor.
I used to bike over there and walk it. It used to have golden plover and dunlin, and curlew and short eared owls and hen harrier, red grouse, black grouse; sacrificed by the then Nature Conservancy Council in the 1980's. Sacrificed, for forestry.
It's now under alien conifers and larch. I was up there three years ago and I'm not ashamed to say, I cried.
It's like going and looking at war graves. That was what came to mind.
Row upon row of war graves. Every single tree is a death knell, is a nail in the coffin of that moor.
No point going up there looking for birds now, they are virtually all gone.
And people ask me are you angry about that, are you upset at that?
Yes of course I am, of course I am. I love the area. I love Wales.
And to see this going on really hurts, it really hurts.
I say: do you blame the man with the plough upon Llanbrynmair moor ?; do you blame the people who went and stuck the trees in the ground?
Do you blame the forestry and the farming for cutting into the Berwyns, for pollution?
I say no, I don't. No, I don't at all. They have just taken what money was available.
They've used the grant system to do what they were encouraged to do.
That's all they've done. I don't blame them at all.
My anger, and it is an anger, it's a venom, is aimed at those grey, fat-salaried spineless bureaucrats, who sat by and watched all of this happen.
People in key positions, who could have made a big difference, who were so concerned with moving up that career ladder, adding to that great big fat pension, rubbing shoulders with the right people, going to the right meetings, saying the right things, that they either forgot about, or didn't care about, what was going on all around 'em.
Those are the ones that I am ANGRY with.
And I tell you this now, you will pay for this, you will answer for this.
It won't be to me, I wish it were, I wish it were, but it won't be to me and it won't be to your peers.
It'll come, it'll come in twenty, thirty, forty years time.
It'll come when you are with your grand children.
You might be reading a story, a simple story about a Welsh farmer, who goes out to feed his sheep with lapwings, peewits whirling overhead.
Or you might be helping them with their homework, their Welsh or English homework and it might be a bit of poetry about the song of the skylark, as it climbs and climbs and climbs towards the heavens, singing all the way up.
Or it might simply be that you are looking at a magazine, or a book, or the internet at a beautiful photograph of a colourful hay meadow, a meadow full of flowers, your buttercups and your dandelions, globe flower maybe.
The odd orchid in there as well and hovering above them will be the butterflies.
The stunning common blue or the orange tip and you have swallows and house martins feeding away there as well.
And your grand kids will turn to you and they'll say:
'Grandad, what was it like? What was it like walking through these hay meadows ?
It must have been lovely to have skylarks all around you singing away.
Do you know, it must have been fantastic to walk through all of these damp fields and these funny birds with little caps on called 'peewits' going all around you.
What was it like grandad ?
And then they will look you in the eye as only children can, and they say,
'Hold on now grandad, you said you worked in conservation.
You said you were an important man in conservation.
Why grandad, why didn't you look after these for me?
Why can't I go out with you now and see these things?
Why didn't you do more to look after them?'
And I tell you then, and only then, if you've got an ounce of humanity left in you, only then will your conscience be pricked and only then will you realise.
Despite all of this climbing up the career ladder, being friends with all of the right people, saying all of the right things, getting a fat pension.
Despite all of that, your whole career will have amounted to absolutely nothing. Nothing.
And even worse, is that you will have let your grand children down.
We only have one Earth, one planet, it's not as if we can say, well we made a mess of this, let's get the other one in and start all over again.
We cannot do that, and bear in mind, I stand before you, not as a long haired tree-hugging hippy, who's done the course, who's read the books.
I stand before you as someone who was born, brought up, has lived all of his life, still lives and works in the Welsh countryside.
I've seen these things happen. I've seen these things going on.
Now it's not too late. Almost, but not quite.
And we really are, we really are, on the brink of disaster.
Over the past four, five years, I've seen a massive change, a huge decline in once common butterflies, once common birds, once common plants.
They are disappearing. We need to wake up. We need to change things and we need to change things now.
What do we change? A whole host of complex things, but we can start with some of the laws we pass.
The Marine Conservation Bill recently, when it came in it was quite nice, a quite strong law, but by the time it got chewed up and spat out again it was a watered down version of what first went in there.
We've got to stop that.
We've got to bring to an end these endless meetings, committees, sub-committees, action plans, recovery plans.
There's far too much of this.
If my Dad was alive, he'd call it 'lap wast', just empty words, leading to meaningless sentences.
It's time for all of that to stop. It is time for action.
It is time that we actually did something, that has to translate out into the Welsh countryside.
The bird watcher here, the bird organisations here, we should be about bums on eggs.
I'm not seeing more skylarks, I'm not seeing more lapwings, I'm not seeing more yellowhammers, I'm not seeing more hay meadows, so something is wrong, something is very, very wrong.
The new organisation we now have, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission has now become Natural Resources Wales.
Now that's a name and a half.
You could have picked a better name to start with.
Resources: that to me is something to be used and abused, something to be exploited.
We'll see if I'm wrong, but I suspect that's not such a bad name. I am genuinely fed up. It is time for a big, big change.
And can you imagine, can you imagine if you are there with your grand kids and you can turn to them and say 'Well cariad bach,' do you know what, it just so happens that 'cause of something I was involved in, we were able to turn things around and if you go and get your wellies, we'll go out now.
The farmer over the way has got a couple of wet fields and do you know what, he's got eight pairs of lapwing in there.
Let's go out and let's have a look at them. Or, you go and get your coat, it's a lovely day, sun is out.
Tell you what we'll do, we'll go up the bank there, we'll lie on our backs and we'll watch and we'll listen to all the skylarks as they climb up towards the blue sky and we'll watch 'em 'til they disappear.
Or there's not just one hay meadow around this village now, because of these changes we made, there's actually six of them, so come on, we'll go out. We'll chase the butterflies and you can run your hands through these flowers and maybe we'll catch a grasshopper.
Can you imagine the look in their eyes, the pride in their eyes when they look at you and you say that?
And can you imagine what it's going to mean to you here?
The knowledge that you are an important part, an integral part, of that?
Boys bach, we have to change and we have to change now.
I haven't got a crystal ball. I can't tell you exactly what's going to happen, but I do firmly believe if each and every one of you in here, when you go into your office, when you sit at your desk, thinks about what your grand children are going to say to you in forty years time.
That should drive you on.
That should fuel this change.