Dominic Dyer and the Bristol Nats

Chatting with Mark Avery about Wild Justice and Dominic Dyer about – well, loads of things, in the same week? My podcasting cup truly runneth over.

I have a huge amount of regard for both Mark and Dominic. They’re very different individuals of course, but both are intelligent, focussed conservationists. Dominic (we concluded as the sun sunk over the yard arm) has ‘street smarts’. He’s also honed his speaking style so it flows and loops back on itself with nary a hesitation or deviation (if he was on ‘Just a Minute‘ he’d win the round with ease every single time), but still has a great knack of being the ‘everyman’ despite a CV that include high-profile roles in industry, leading marches through London, taking tea with politicians, and steering the Badger Trust through the mass slaughter of what is supposed to be a highly-protected mammal.

Anyway, Dominic and I met up in Bristol, prior to his talk at the AGM of the venerable Bristol Naturalist’s Society (which was founded in 1862 and ‘exists to stimulate a greater awareness of natural history and geology in the Bristol area’). We meet up fairly regularly, and it’s always inspiring and interesting. We set the world to rights, firm up schedules, roll our eyes about the mess politicians have made of Brexit, and bemoan the current lack of opportunities for journalists to write about the environmental issues that we’re both most concerned about.

One ‘schedule’ we are looking at, incidentally, is a series of new conservation/environmental discussion-based podcasts that would look very much like a ‘town hall debate’ with me in the chair.

I have the location, the equipment, and the skills to record and produce the debates and a broad range of contacts who might take part, whilst Dominic has the knowledge to be an expert ‘semi-permanent’ contributor and an even broader range of contacts who would take part solely based on his say-so (at least that’s what we think!). We’re now going to go away and work out the first three or four ‘debates’, contact potential guests, and organise the dates. If that interests you, I’ll post updates right here.

To end this short post I’d like to just reflect on Dominic’s talk, which was on the politics of wildlife protection (and forgive the above photo: Bristol Nats use a church hall in Westbury-on-Trym and I couldn’t help myself).

As I said, Dominic has a remarkably polished speaking style. Using ‘A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife‘ as a prop (and see the photo below), he wound a tale that took in the moon landings, Greta Thunberg, stats on policing costs for the badger cull that were released just thirty minutes before he started talking, the history of pesticides, and the Bristol Nats themselves, without a single ‘er’, ‘like’, ‘you know’, or ‘what I’m trying to say’ in 35 minutes.

Apologies for perhaps seeming to eulogise, but as someone who can’t approach a five-minute introduction without notes, in an abstract ‘observing how things work‘ kind of a way I find it fascinating to watch a skilled proponent like Dominic at work. All the more so because I know for a fact that an hour before he started he really wasn’t sure what he was going to say.

I’ve seen Mark Avery do the same thing. Chris Packham is a remarkably organised speaker too. It’s as if their thoughts and their speech centres are linked so closely they almost function in synchronicity. There are obvious parallels with stand up comedians who hold ninety minutes of well-rehearsed material in their heads but can still make it sound fresh (while having to adapt to interruptions and current events). I’m not sure it’s a skill you can learn. It can be refined but while you and I can get better at ‘delivering speeches’ if we practice, I do believe we’d never get as good at it.

Does that matter? I think so, because I know that many of us question what we can contribute to conservation, what we can do to help the dire situation the planet and its wildlife finds itself in. I’ve beaten myself up (metaphorically of course) many times because I just can’t speak like Dominic, Mark, or Chris. But maybe that’s not my ‘role’ (or yours).

My podcasts are my contribution. If you listen to them I barely feature in them. And that’s deliberate. They’re not supposed to be about me. They’re a platform for the ‘guest’. I want to hear what they think, what they dream of, what they work towards – and when they can’t do it without hesitation or deviation (and very, very few people can) I’ll edit it to make it sound like they can. Of course I’d like to be a charismatic orator – many of us would I guess and I’ll always give my best imitation if I’m asked to try – but that’s not my role. That doesn’t mean though that conservation doesn’t need what I can contribute.

And if you’re also beating yourself up about not being a Dominic, a Mark, or a Chris, please don’t. Discover what you can do, no matter how small or large, how trivial you might think it is, because conservation (desperately) needs whatever you can contribute too…

spreading the message Dominc Dyer style…