My re-vision as an ecologist

Managing Director, Richard Dodd, reflects on why he works as an ecologist and how that has shaped what we do as a company.

It was 1st May 1997. Two years of my Zoology degree now completed at Cardiff University. Two great years of finding myself, after a pretty miserable previous six years with the Army. I was changing. People were changing. Things started to look positive. There was an electric feeling that we were on the brink of something new.

After completing my exams for the year, I remember celebrating with friends. We all voted in the general election that morning and had arranged, a week before, to meet up at the student’s union bar at 1pm. We discussed politics and knew we were on the verge of something great. We talked about what was to come, how we were going to make a difference and why. Although we all came from differing backgrounds, were studying various degree courses and had our own initial reasons for attending university, we all shared one thing in common. Why we were there. We were there to make a difference. Not just for ourselves but for others and the natural world. That was our bond. At that one collective moment in time we were all optimistic about our future and that of the environment. Embracing a change of attitudes returning towards a sustainable society and making a positive commitment to the natural world.

That night (and that of the following morning) we watched as the results came in. Most cheered when seats were won for Labour, whilst others did the same when the Liberal Democrats made ground. Being in Wales at the time, it was not a place to cheer for the Conservatives – not that there was any support there within our group. A landslide victory for Labour, which ended an eighteen-year spell of Conservative dominance. That was OUR ‘Summer of 69’ moment.

Forward to the end of my degree in 2000, I was lucky enough to secure a job in bat conservation the week after my last exam and have worked in the public, voluntary and private sectors. Over the past two decades I’ve helped manage, restore and create natural habitats, provide advice to help secure better outcomes for wildlife and even educated (hopefully inspired) a few people along the way. I thought, working in jobs I really love, and latterly becoming a business owner, I was making that positive commitment to the natural world. However, this is only what I’ve done. I had no real sense of why I was doing it. It had no definitive purpose. So, I began to re-find my why.

I do what I do because I love the natural environment. It gives me all I need. Clean air, fresh water and wholesome food; spectacular natural landscapes and wildlife; seasonality; resources and opportunities to make my life comfortable or enjoyable. What’s not to like or love about the natural environment?

I, like most professional ecologists and those working in the environmental sector, care about the environment. We recognise that climate change is an issue to us as a species and that species degradation and extinctions are happening at an alarming rate across the globe. We know we should be doing something about these issues, and many of us are. But have you ever stopped to critically examine what negative impacts you are making both at home and work?

Just like any other animal, humans have modified the environment around them, using natural resources, to help them create places of shelter and enhance their chance of survival. Unfortunately, unlike any other animal humans have exploited the very environment that has given us life on earth. We, as a species, have a strong and deep desire not only survive, but thrive. Over the course of our own evolution as a species we have thrived to occupy every continent on earth and are actively seeking new horizons to other planets. This exploitation has positive impacts for us, such as advances in trade, technology and medicine. But it must not go unrecognised that it has significant negative impacts on. Specifically, climate change and biodiversity.

Climate change and biodiversity are two-sides of the same coin. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an urgent warning in October 2018 that humanity has just 12 years left to keep global warming to below 1.5°C and avoid a climate catastrophe. The same month, WWF released the 2018 Living Planet Report, which revealed that the average abundance of more than 4,000 species across the globe has declined by 60% since 1980. Our oceans have also been warming 40% faster than previously thought and are struggling to cope with the 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste we deposit in them every year.

It is all too painfully obvious that the negative exploitation of our natural environment now significantly outweigh the positives and we all have a part to play in addressing this increasing imbalance.

Looking back to that moment of my life in May 1997, I do not believe that I have significantly helped address the negative impacts of either climate change or species loss in the past two decades. I’m not going to leave it another twenty years and so, here is my why:

“I believe that the natural environment is of equal if not greater importance than the built environment. I also believe that the actions we take in developing the built environment should seek to halt climate change and reverse the decline in biodiversity. To leave the natural environment in a better condition for future generations.”

I also pledge that my why will also be the why of my company. And so, our company vision is born. All that we work for will be towards achieving this vision. All that work with us must share our vision. Complimentary to our vision Wildwood Ecology now operates on a simple set of values that we all share. These are:

  1. Promoting and encouraging sustainable and ethical environmental concepts and solutions that benefit all
  2. Providing a friendly and supportive environment for staff where innovation and ingenuity are actively encouraged and rewarded, and personal growth supported
  3. Having an ethos that encapsulates personal honesty and integrity in everything we do
  4. Always striving to exceed our customers’ expectations

My vision and values are not copyrighted. They are not unique. If they are of value to you then do please use or share them. Tell me if you have a better vision or set of values and lets share ideas.

Please also hold us to account! As an independent ecological consultancy, we can make a significant positive difference and that means making decisions on who we work for and what projects we work on. We further pledge to not knowingly work with clients or on projects that will or may likely negatively exploit the natural environment.

That is why we will not knowingly work on political vanity projects or schemes, such as HS2, or indeed any development where the natural environment is either side-lined or ignored.

If you share our vision and would like to work with us as either a valued client or member of our team, then please do get in touch or share your vision with us. Together we can make a difference.