Susanna Perkins's Letter

To my dear grandchildren,

Though you will not read this letter for many years, I wanted to share with you some precious memories from my childhood. I hope and pray that you will be able to have similar moments.

When I was little, many animals visited our garden every day - hedgehogs, dormice, many butterflies, and dozens of different species of birds. Sadly, the heathland next door has now been replaced by houses, but I have tried to welcome these animals to the garden wherever I have lived throughout my life. And over my lifetime their numbers have decreased dramatically.

Today, I am thrilled to have hedgehogs visiting my garden again for the first time in 50 years. I put special food out for them because there is very little for them to eat. Crop spraying and garden chemicals have destroyed the insects and beetles on which they depend, and the drought this summer has made the earth too hard for them to dig for worms. Over my lifetime their numbers have decreased across the UK by half, and I am lucky enough to have had 3 in my garden this summer. I do hope they will still exist when you grow up.

During this frighteningly hot summer I sat in my garden late into the evening. I was lucky enough to see a bat circling around the house, hunting for insects. When I was young we had many bats around the house - and sometimes even inside. Their numbers are now declining steeply due to pollution, climate change, lack of food and roosting sites - the list goes on. I wonder how long they can last.

My favourite memory is of the flocks of swifts that used to come screeching around the house, heralds that summer had come. This year I have seen just four in my town. There are hardly any insects for them to eat when they arrive after their long migration from Africa, and most of their nesting sites have been destroyed. Their numbers, too, have declined by half in the last 20 years. I fear that they will not come next year - or ever again.

This week we had some devastating news. Our new Government has decided to scrap the laws which help to protect our depleted wildlife. After decades of struggling to support these beautiful creatures we are to lose them after all. Why? I cannot answer that. Scientists have provided ample evidence that we must act now to save wildlife and prevent uncontrolled climate change, yet still most politicians don't listen. They only talk of making money, not of growing a healthy planet fit for people to share with nature. Silent skies; poisoned rivers; no rustling in the hedgerows; none of the myriad of colour, song and life that graced the countryside of our youth.

Many of us tried to help wildlife, to leave for you and your children the many irreplaceable benefits nature provides. It makes me weep to think of the devasted planet that I leave to you, my grandchildren. I'm so sorry I couldn't do more.


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