In conversation Stratford Sam


Sam (In Person. Stratford-upon-Avon, West Midlands)

Sam and I talk conservation, Brexit, and mass extinction, in a Stratford coffee house.


JO: So, I’m standing with ..

S: Sam [ ] ..

JO: Sam .. who is a Zoology …

S: a Zoology graduate from Swansea …

JO: from Swansea … and where are you from originally, Sam?

S: Stratford upon Avon

JO: you are … so you’re working at home

S: yes, living at home …

JO: what’s the plan at the moment?

S: The plan is to get enough money to be able to move South

JO: yes

S: to do some job in marine conservation

JO: in …

S: marine conversation

JO: in marine conservation

S: yes

JO: is that something you discovered while you were doing your degree?

S: well, I’ve been diving for 8 years

JO: wow

S: I really love ..I love the sea … so I need to move South and to get there I need some money

JO: So, you’ve kind of got a plan …

S: a little bit of a plan, yes …

JO: is there an institution that you know that you can go and work at ?

S: there’s a few down in Plymouth … Orca … and they do mammal surveying … marine mammal surveying, and that seems like a really cool thing to do ..

JO: I have to give away that I’ve already told Sam at this point what I’m doing so he knows where this conversation is about to go … in terms of … I put it to you that I’m concerned like many scientists about the state of global ecology

S: sure

JO: but also we talked briefly about what you called the political climate and the connection between the two … can I just ask you, from your point of view, as someone who has sat through three years of zoology lectures, and obviously as a young person … what sense do you have of the state of the world and .. does it bother you?

S: It worries me that we are not doing enough to safeguard the environment … particularly in the UK … I feel with Brexit and us leaving the European Union, we lose a lot of the protection which … a lot of the policies were set in law in the EU … EU Habitats … EU Birds Directive … lots of policies which we need to integrate in our law, but I don’t know how truthfully they are going to get translated over …. if it’s going to be as they were in the EU or if they are going to be upgraded or downgraded … I’m just not sure.

JO: So, it’s uncertainty rather than a sense of which direction it will go in.

S: Yes. I’m not sure. We still have time to let the environment recover, really. But we’re at a turning point, I feel now … where it could go either way.

JO: yes. What was I going to say? I think the Bulletin of the… do you know the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists?

S: no

JO: Since ’45, 1945 … I think … it has been … it was initially set up as it sounds to monitor the risks to humanity from nukes …

S: sure

JO: but they’ve broadened over time to just monitor risks to humanity so they now consider climate change as well as other factors …

S: which is good

JO: and they’ve … you see on the front of this helmet, there’s a clock?

S: yes.

JO: they do this thing called the Domesday Clock and they’ve got it at something like two and a half minutes to midnight … which is about as bad as it has ever been …so the phrase they used last year when it was maybe three minutes to midnight … was humanity is in “extreme danger”. Do you feel like you are in extreme danger?

S: currently, no, but if you look at, you know, the world and the universe, it’s hilarious how small amount of time we’ve been on this Earth as humans and it’s amazing the amount of damage that we’ve done … you look at extinction rates now and they’re quite comparable to when the dinosaurs …

JO: mass extinction

S: this is possibly a seventh mass extinction at the moment and that’s worrying …. but we can’t really see that … we don’t really notice …

JO: is that something you looked at in your studies?

S: yes, I think it’s something like 42% of amphibians or something has been lost already … amphibians are most in danger, it seems, at the moment … and there’s new diseases affecting them … chytrid … and it’s worrying the rate we’re losing animals and wildlife and plants …

JO: I mean, I always feel that when the BBC natural history programming, which is probably where most people get exposure to nature

S: sure, yes

JO: … in terms of information … I always find it does sometimes get a bit of a mention but it’s normally as a sort of aesthetic consideration … “ah, what a shame, we’re losing all these …” Actually, it’s bit more .. isn’t it actually a bit more threatening to us ultimately, or ?

S: yes. Most of what humans look at is like cultural things … what does it do for us … directly what does it do for us? But there’s a lot more that the environment does for us that we don’t really know. There are way more services that it provides that we just don’t … most people don’t take into account. Most people go “ah well, isn’t that bird pretty to look at?Isn’t that nice?” It’s not that it disperses seeds for a very important plant and without this bird species, you lose the plant species. There’s a lot of relationships that most people won’t see … they’ll just see that there’ s a pretty bird that we’re losing …

JO: In terms of the changes we need to make, what sort of understanding do you have, or feeling you have about .. can we just continue as we’re doing?

S: My feeling is that we cannot continue as we are …

JO: … but what does that actually mean?

S: I’m not sure … but we need to take more steps, whatever it is, to safeguard the environment … because I feel in many cases, it’s all about money. And, not enough money is put into the environment or not enough money is .. people don’t think it’s worth as much as it is … you can put money on the environment, but it’s entirely theoretical … until you lose it … take pollinators … bees … the amount farmers would have to spend on pollinating their plants is astronomical … but bees do it for free … but we’re losing bees … but people aren’t doing much … We’re doing something about it … but we’re not doing as much as we could. So, I just think more …

JO: do you have a … I’ll buzz off in a sec … do you have a sense of how the UK landscape needs to change ? That’s what I want to do. I want to try to push it really hard … probably further than an academic would be prepared to and actually like sketch … actually this is the landscape we’ve got at the moment … like the map … actually it needs to look like this … Do you have a feeling for how it needs to change or is that all a bit … ?

S: Not really.

JO: You see, I don’t think it’s been … because I’m interested … and I don’t think it’s been done particularly well …

S: I guess it’s not .. people are people and we look after ourselves first and foremost …

JO: but we frame that very individually

S: of course …

JO: I think the argument is that we can’t look after ourselves unless we act together …

S: Unless we look after the environment, we can’t look after ourselves …

JO: cool. Well, you’re pretty good at this …

S: surprising ….

JO: why? It’s just a chat. Anyway, thanks very much.

S: No problem.