Little steps make a difference too
When I grew up here in Yorkshire, hedgehogs were plentiful. Today they are commonly seen as a corpse on the road, the unlucky victim of an unintentional hit-and-run. Hedgehogs are difficult to count because they are shy, nocturnal and hard to track. However, various surveys of hedgehog populations in the UK suggest a massive reduction from an estimated thirty-six million in the 1950s (Moorhouse p7) to around half a million today.
Tom Moorhouse, the author of Ghosts in the Hedgerow, suggests exploitation, agricultural intensification and urbanisation are the leading causes of this decline. Badgers, road kills, and tidy gardens contribute but are insufficient to account for this colossal fall.
Little steps make a big difference…
However, Moorhouse is optimistic that the extinction of the hedgehog in the UK is not inevitable and can be prevented by many people taking little steps.
He cites the story of seven-year-old Gracie, who took the tiny step of writing to the Royal Mail, reminding the firm that the rubber bands dropped by posties on their rounds were often mistaken for worms by hedgehogs (and birds), which ate them and died. Royal Mail acted, and rubber bands are now kept and re-used.
Similarly, Moorhouse reminds us that we don’t have to rewild our entire garden (or even our entire estate, much as I admire Isabel Tree and her massive project). Letting a patch in the corner of the garden or a window box grow wild is a little step with a significant consequence, especially when the entire community follows suit.
We don’t have to become totally vegan in our diet. Eating a little less red meat and dairy and a few more fruits and vegetables is a small step with potentially significant consequences.
And this is the crux of the matter. Little steps can have an impact and make a difference. You don’t have to change the world single-handedly – indeed, that’s impossible. However, you can take a small step towards solving an insurmountable global problem.
…especially when many participate
And there is another element to this. Realistically, one small step will not make that much of a difference but the small actions of many will.
In the final chapter of his book, Moorhouse asks ten hedgehog experts to recommend small action steps we might take. Time and again, talking to your neighbour or working to create change in the local community is a high priority – even before rewilding your window box.
How do you eat an elephant? Bit by bit.
If little steps can make a difference, your first step should be encouraging your community to start taking those little steps. This concept of small steps taken by many people applies in many situations, not just in conservation. Change the world with little steps – and make sure talking to your neighbour is the first.
Moorhouse, Tom. Ghosts in the Hedgerow. Random House, 23 Mar. 2023.
Tree, Isabella. Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm. London, Picador, 2019.
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Your views are important, and your fellow readers would love to hear your opinion, so share your thoughts in the comments box below, and thank you for your time and generosity.