I hope that other MEPS are spending time away from Brussels, Banks and Bailout discussions. I got home at midnight last night after a dinner in London, hosted by the Lord Mayor. I believe he, and some others, really want to find a way to mend the wound that has grown between the financial services community and the rest of the UK. If no solution is found both the UK and the financial services community will suffer - but many in that community are not listening,
I spent a very precious afternoon with Gary Batters, Director of Conservation and Education at Banham zoo in Norfolk. He reminded me of the vital work that international networks small local zoos are doing to preserve and breed often very, very endangered and near extinct species. And then, where possible, work with local populations to re-introduce them back into the wild.
Gary explained that one can keep a species safe from extinction even if numbers have dropped very low. If only 500 members of a species can be rescued they can be sustained. A small family of lemurs, leopards or even certain giraffes in our local zoos, when wisely exchanged with others can make all the difference.
Zoo standards differ, some, in some countries and in some organisations then will no doubt fall short. But locally we should support the work of those who are really trying to weave together very slim threads in global conservations.
This morning I was with the Elveden Estate in Suffolk. The Common Agricultural Policy is up for its 7 year review and, quite apart from my own opinion that they whole thing is fundamentally flawed, I also suspect that the top down approach being taken by Brussels on environmental issues wont help food prices, the environment or conservation I had asked the National Farmers Union to explain to me what it takes to be given a "Entry level Scheme" for environmental work on farms and a "Higher level Scheme".
I saw just how important, and how expensive, water storage is for our food supply. I learnt how vital it is to a farm to have long term contracts from buyers like Walker Crisps for their Potatoes. We discussed crop rotation, pesticide control and farm diversification.
The nearby town is wanting to grow, build some houses and space for businesses, but is being stopped by environmental legislation. This farm, like so many others really care about the environment, Armed with binoculars I see a pair of their very precious Stone Curlews. They then explain the almost one to one love they are putting into helping each nesting pair escape predators and how much more successfully the birds breed on an onion field than their SSSI highly protected heath upland next door.
These farmers really understand the pros and cons of the EU Habitats and Birds directive - They don't want to lose environmental legislation altogether, they actually want farmers across the continent to work equally hard. But they don't think the EU legislation works in the detail of understanding either their local protected species or allowing local communities or local businesses to grow in harmony with local nature.
On the upside I bought some local gammon and local cheese from the farm shop make sandwiches for my "by local" cricket tea. cakes are all baked (using "silver spoon" British sugar from local beet), and eggs from numerous garden gate sales.