Why public consultations are important to nature
You know nature suffers. They are aware that more and more places are becoming uninhabitable and that biodiversity is decreasing at an alarming rate. You can’t stand it – you want to take steps to protect the living.
Increasingly, NGOs are asking you to take part in so-called “public consultations” of the EU. They cover everything from restoring nature to using pesticides to renewable energy and forest conservation. And they ask you to share your views to help shape the law on these issues.
You may agree that the topics are important, but you wonder – are these practices really important? Do your responses to public consultations really make a difference? The answer is yes. They are very important and here is why.
When the European Commission wants to propose new legislation, it first conducts an impact assessment, which also includes stakeholder and public consultation. Stakeholders are not individual citizens, but interest groups involved in the issue. This also includes industries whose business models simply stand in the way of the survival of nature. And you can be sure that powerful lobbies will always endeavor to protect their interests. They will fund massive propaganda campaigns, get private meetings with decision makers, drown them in technical filings, and sometimes even threaten them with mass layoffs or delocalization. You have the resources for it. And if these destructive forces are the only ones who share their views, then the Commission only hears their perspective.
This is where you come in. You have to tell the Commission your side of the story – that you care about nature, the survival of our planet and humanity, and that you expect our leaders to do everything in their power to protect them. As an individual, you probably don’t have the opportunity to meet decision makers in person. That is why the European Commission is offering you a unique opportunity to have your voice heard through the public consultation.
The language used in the Commission’s public consultations is rather technical and can be difficult to understand if you are not an expert. However, on matters affecting you and the survival of the natural world, whatever your level of expertise, your opinion matters. If we want a functioning democracy, we cannot allow technical complexity to prevent people from participating in democratic life.
For this reason, we at BirdLife are running a campaign called #RestoreNature. We help people interested in nature respond to the European Commission’s public consultation by signing pre-filled responses put together by environmental experts.
You may be wondering why BirdLife doesn’t just share its own views with the Commission and stop there? Why are we trying to get the public involved? Because there is strength in numbers: in a democracy, the mandate to exercise power comes from the people. In responding to the public consultation, you are providing indisputable evidence of your will. We want to get to a point where the Commission has to say: “The will of the people is to restore nature.”
You may think that you have already voted for representatives charged with making political decisions. Admittedly, elections are the most powerful democratic tool and we encourage you to vote with nature in mind. The reality is that voting is just not enough. An election mandate typically lasts four or five years – so many things can happen during that time, circumstances can change dramatically, and it is simply impossible for a candidate’s program to cover every single decision they have to make. Your leaders need you to steer them in the right direction. Democracy is not a spectator sport: it’s up to you to keep your representatives busy – and public consultations are a great way to do it.
In addition, the past has shown that public consultations work: on important legal acts such as the EU nature directives or the water framework directive; Mass reactions to the Commission had a very positive effect on the decision-making process.
Still, you may think that speaking your opinion doesn’t guarantee that you will be heard. That may well be true. However, if you remain silent, you will be ignored. And if you are ignored, as was the case with over 250,000 citizens who called for an overhaul of the destructive Common Agricultural Policy in 2017, the answer is not to give up. The answer is to come back louder, stronger, and in greater numbers; Until it becomes impossible to ignore us.
There is no silver bullet that could save nature forever with a single shot. The struggle for the living is a huge and constant struggle in which we use many tools. Public consultations are one of the most powerful.
Talk to the #RestoreNature campaign today and share it with those interested in the living world.