I’m all for looking on the bright side of life. If there’s a glass half full (notice the full) I am more interested in the quality of the beer remaining, than the loss of the first half pint. After all, there’s always time for another. So it is my prerogative to fill these column inches with positivity whenever possible; there’s too much doom-mongering in the environmental sector, sometimes we need to celebrate the wins. And by-and-large it’s great time to be in conservation. The nadir for species loss in the UK was probably reached sometime in the early eighties and over the last thirty years much improvement has been achieved, especially with a few headline-grabbing species. A great deal of effort and expense has been expended in the aspiration to slow, and ultimately stop, species loss, and it stems from a growing political will to get behind such initiatives. Conservation groups, particularly NGOs, have such large memberships as to be powerful lobbyists in their own right and as the support to protect our environment grows, so does the will of the policy makers. However it is not all rosy out there. Yes, there are more Dartford Warblers on a single common of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths than there once were in the entire Country in the late Seventies, but how much of that has been down to milder winters and how much can be attributed directly to better understanding and management of the heathland ecosystem? Species loss, a loss of diversity in our global biological system (more neatly termed biodiversity) continues at pace, and there are growing fears that we might not be able to do quite enough. As I said, I don’t like to dwell on the negative, but there’s no point in being blindly naive either. Targets were set in 2002 to significantly reduce the rate of species loss by 2010, at the time it seemed like a comfortable distance in the future. These modest targets, as reported in a recent report in the journal Science, will not be met. Over the last eight years studies have shown that numbers of species, size of species populations and diversity within ecosystems have all gone down. While habitat loss, the spread of alien species and the depletion of global fish stocks have all gone up. It doesn’t take a biodiversity genius to work out that this combination is not conducive to halting the loss. Never has wildlife been so popular on television. Millions of us tune in to watch mind-blowing photography of exotic and not-so exotic animals and plants, and marvel at their life history, and yet there still remains the question of why conservationists bother. The: “What is the point of wasps” argument. The report’s author Dr Stuart Butchart sums up the response very neatly: "All nature has intrinsic value. What right have we got to drive hundreds of thousands of species extinct and deny our children, grandchildren or future generations the opportunity to benefit from and appreciate the species around us?" Much of the reason why we ought not impoverish our ecosystem lies in an understandably selfish need to ensure the life-support system of the planet continues to function as we need it to. But there are moralistic and ideological reasons too. I prefer to keep things nice and simple. Diversity, as well as being the central nub of how life works, is really really interesting! Peter’s photo which accompanies this week’s article gives another illustration. Last weekend I found an interesting moth, in the same family as this pebble prominent, resting on a wall during a public guided walk. I showed it around and one lady commented how pretty it was compared to most moths, which she felt were drab grey things. “With over 3,500 moths in the UK, there are lots which are much more colourful than this little fellow!” I assured her! 2010 is the International Year of Biodiveristy and East Devon District Council are getting behind a number of initiatives to help celebrate our local slice of this big global cake. Firstly there will be a temporary exhibition in celebration of Biodiversity opening in a few weeks in Seaton – more news about that when I see the panels installed. And there is also a County-wide project which is about to be launched, to find the image of Devon’s biodiversity, again more news here when the time comes. In the meantime, get out there and enjoy what we’ve got!