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  • Pesticide-Free Cambridge

Uk Bird Red List DOUBLES in just 25 years

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

In summer, Cambridge is lucky to have House Martins nesting in King's College entrance and Swifts screaming above Arbury. But these two species have now been added to the ever-growing 'Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern' according to a recent report by a coalition of government wildlife bodies and bird charities. Even this stark phrase fails to do justice to their catastrophic decline - swift numbers have HALVED in 25 years - nor to the desperate plight of 25% of the UK's bird species. That's right. A QUARTER OF OUR BIRDS may disappear from the UK unless something urgently is done.

You can hear success stories - White-tailed Eagles or Red Kites - but these are birds that should never have been in trouble. We should have always had eagles in Norfolk, and Red Kites should abound across the UK. No, huge numbers of our birds are in trouble. Though the reasons are several, including habitat loss and climate change, a huge factor is lack of food. And many of the threatened species are insect-eaters whose food supply has been destroyed by pesticide use. The deliberate use of herbicides like glyphosate kills plants on which insect larvae feed. Insecticides, of course, kill insects directly. And many pesticides like neonicotinoids disrupt insects' nervous systems so much that they cannot function and soon die.

Pesticides are embedded in modern agricultural practice. In the summer, if you take the train to London and look out over the fields, for your entire journey you would be very lucky to see a single Swallow or House Martin. There is so little insect life left in the country. And the chemicals we spray on our crops also poison our water, our earth and our air. This is in the name of greater yields, yet we throw half of our food away.

But pesticides are not only an agricultural issue. The Cambridge City Council and many Parish Councils still spray glyphosate on our verges, paths and road edges. This is also common in schools, despite the mounting evidence for the harmful effects of glyphosate on humans, especially children. As well as glyphosate, schools, businesses, colleges, sports clubs and members of the public routinely use insecticides such as ant powder or bug spray. We are encouraged to do so by supermarkets and garden centres who pile these products high in spring.

What can you do? 1. Please sign and share our petition ( that the City Council phase out pesticides on the land they manage as soon as possible. They have committed to do so by the end of 2022, but the promise of trialling two herbicide-free wards has already slipped from autumn 2021 to spring 2022.

2. Raise this issue urgently with your city, county or parish councillor, your school, your workplace, your university or college, your sports club.

3. Don't use these products in your garden or home.

4. Keep us informed on as we keep a record of pesticide use across Cambridge.

The good news is that insects and other invertebrates reproduce quickly so have the capacity to bounce back if given the chance. But we have to act NOW and we have to act FAST to save our insect-eating birds. It's a privilege to see and hear a 'screamer' of swifts hurtle over your head on Akeman Street. We cannot take them for granted. Please act now.

To comment on this piece, please go to the original Facebook posting here.

[BG @ PFC]

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