The Maxwell Knight Memorial Fund (1968) A Letter To The Editor…

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The World Is Not Enough According To WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016 (in fact, we require the ‘biocapacity equivalent of 1.6 Earths’)

There’s a real-life international power struggle and the antagonist is man ‘demanding more from the planet than it can renew,’ reports WWF in the Living Planet Report 2016

‘Since the early 1970s, humanity has been demanding more from the planet than it can renew (see below). By 2012,’ writes WWF in the Living Planet Report (LPR), ‘the biocapacity equivalent of 1.6 Earths was needed to provide the natural resources and services humanity consumed in that year (Global Footprint Network, 2016). Exceeding the Earth’s biocapacity is possible only in the short term. Only for a brief period can we cut trees faster than they mature, harvest more fish than the oceans can replenish, or emit more carbon into the atmosphere than the forests and oceans can absorb. The consequences of “overshoot” are already clear: habitat and species loss, and accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere (Tittensor et al., 2014; UNEP, 2012).’

Global Ecological Footprint by component vs Earth’s biocapacity, 1961-2012:

Carbon is the dominant component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint (ranging from 43 per cent in 1961 to 60 per cent in 2012). It is the largest Footprint component at the global level as well as for 145 of the 233 countries and territories tracked in 2012. Its primary cause has been the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas. The green line represents the Earth’s capacity to produce resources and ecological services (i.e., the biocapacity). It has been upward trending slightly, mainly due to increased productivities in agriculture (Global Footprint Network, 2016). Data are given in global hectares (gha).

Source: WWF. 2016. Living Planet Report 2016. Risk and resilience in a new era. WWF International, Gland, Switzerland.

Read more about WWF’s conservation work or donate here

 

Global wildlife populations have halved in just 40 years” – WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014.

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“Wildlife’s continued decline highlights the urgent need for sustainable solutions to humanity’s increasing demand on our natural resources,” reports WWF and ZSL in the Living Planet Report.

Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London said: “The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live. Although the report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from businesses.”

We have been on this destructive course for quite some time; it takes time, determination and a certain amount of ignorance to consume Mother Nature’s gifts – but we are managing to do so, one chunk at a time.

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The Living Planet Report 2014 is the tenth edition of WWF’s biennial flagship publication. The report uses the Living Planet Index – a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London which tracks over 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010. The index reveals a continued decline in these populations and this global trend is not slowing down.

Discover more at https://youtu.be/teC3P-sx-n4 or Read the full Living Planet Report 2014

 

 

Maxwell Knight and The Frightened Face of Nature

M’s (Maxwell Knight) Spectre: The Frightened Face of Nature

M’s (Maxwell Knight) Spectre: The Frightened Face of Nature

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Copyright: See acknowledgements

During the 1960’s Maxwell Knight “M” was working on a manuscript entitled The Frightened Face of Nature, snatching brief moments to record his thoughts on how man had treated nature so unfairly for the first fifty years of the twentieth century. The manuscript documented Knight’s greatest fears that, time was running out for nature and that its greatest threat was man’s destructive revolution and the reverse of evolution.

The manuscript was kept under lock and key and it remained a secret until 2015 when the (hitherto unpublished) manuscript was discovered inside M’s personal filing cabinet, which had been bequeathed to a family friend. The manuscript will be updated and released as a book to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Maxwell Knight’s death in 1968 and it is hoped that it will shine a spotlight on the unacceptable way man treats nature.

Maxwell Knight's filing cabinet
Maxwell Knight’s filing cabinet

Why this book matters more after fifty years:

This was a man who had helped defeat the Nazis and their fifth column British sympathisers, sniffed out a Communist rat in MI5 and to any herpetologist who was alive in the 1950s or 1960s the name of Maxwell Knight needs no introduction, but for all others: he was founder member of The British Herpetological Society, he was a well-known BBC broadcaster and writer who appeared in and hosted Nature Parliament, Country Questions and Naturalist. He had a special penchant for reptiles and amphibians. Many of today’s leading naturalists owe much to the influence of Maxwell Knight and the sound and practical advice which he so skilfully conveyed.

Copyright: See acknowledgements

Copyright: Simon H King

Previous books and articles on Maxwell Knight have focused on another, undeniably more headline grabbing, side of his life and character; revealing that Knight played a vital role in MI5 in the Second World War and was also one of Ian Fleming’s inspirations for James Bond’s unflappable “M”, so skilfully played initially by the great Bernard Lee.

Something (or someone) stopped him, however, from driving his manuscript to be published… Was it the negative attention Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring received? Were Knight’s publishers afraid to publish – or did they just feel these were the rantings of an “amateur” naturalist?

Whatever the reason was behind “M” not publishing The Frightened Face of Nature it was written for such a time as this; when there are more and more of us ready to stare down the barrel of the truth that, we are literally frightening the life out of nature.

Today, many of his fears have sadly become our reality:

In just forty years between 1970 and 2010 the global Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures more than 10,000 vertebrate populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52 per cent. The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) and Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) LPI report state that “Habitat loss and degradation, and exploitation through hunting and fishing (intentionally for food or sport, or accidentally, for example as by-catch) are the primary causes of decline.”

Maxwell Knight’s hope was that the progress “at any cost” approach would change – and that, industrialised nations would stop playing the short-term nature unfriendly game of habitat destruction so often carried out in the name of progress. 

Did you know Maxwell Knight? 

We are planning a book about Maxwell Knight, with particular reference to his contributions to natural history in the late 1940s and 1950s until his death in 1968.

In the early 1960s Maxwell Knight began to think about a new, for him rather different, book. He was becoming aware of the marked environmental and social changes that had taken place in Britain and overseas since 1900 (the year of his birth) and felt that there was a need to draw these to the attention of the public. 

We would like to hear from people who might have known Maxwell Knight (MK) or been influenced by him and wonder if you would be willing to contact us – using the form below – and confirm that you are willing, in due course, to give us more details. We will then contact you again later this year or early in 2017.

Thank you in advance

Your information will not appear on this blog (or in the book) without your approval.

Living Planet Index – courtesy of WWF/ZSL/GFN

In reproducing portraits of the late Major Maxwell Knight, we pay tribute to his family, not only for giving us the pictures but also for their encouragement and hospitality in years gone by…