What if there was only one garden snail left in the world?

How we would treasure her. People would travel for miles to see the last garden snail on the planet. A whole television program on – The Snail. An environmentally controlled cabinet would be at her disposal.

She’s sleeping now: an all-night vigil  by a vet and a biologist. Hedgehogs and thrushes are strongly advised to stay away.

“Give her more lettuce. No, not that one – she prefers cos lettuce. Order a dozen heads and pick out only the finest leaves.”

“Ah, there she goes again! Look at the graceful slow glistening slide across that rock. Snail movement as only a snail can. See the symmetry in that magnificent shell. How can something as simple as a snail make a thing as wonderful as that?

“Let’s give her a name. What shall we call her?”

“Let’s call her Martha.”

“Why Martha?”

“Because that was the name we gave to the last Passenger Pigeon on Earth. A fitting name don’t you think! A fitting indictment!”

Many people feel that it is the big picture that is important in conservation – saving rain forests or coral reefs. Yes, these are important. But the small things too are significant.

For most of us the word environment or the word habitat is too complex to be really understood. But what if we selected just one bird or animal or insect in our garden or in our country and learn many things about that one species? We then will begin to see that particular scrap of life, whether it be a wren, a pygmy shrew or yes – a fine snail – has its own special needs if it is to continue. It will need to find the food it like, the nest material it need – and fall in love with another of its own kind.

By focusing our interest on only one species that lives near us we begin to understand the habitat it needs to exist. It is a small matter then to understand habitats in general. But it starts by learning about and appreciating a single species.

By this uncomplicated approach conservation becomes less daunting as an idea – and all nature opens to us in a novel and refreshing way. Contentment becomes ours in knowing many things about a particular species that lives in our garden or in the forest near us or on the sea-shore.

We should not fret about the destruction of Amazon forests: leave that problem to the professionals. But if one person decides to take a particular interest in say – Peacock butterflies in their garden – and this decision is repeated by others – we could have 10,000 gardens across England and Ireland that become particularly favorable to these insects. That decision by individuals, unknown to each other, would be Big Time News in the word of these insects.

Suggestions similar to this are discussed in the book Planet Dancing. Such simple ideas, if applied by many of us, will grow into an influential conservation ethic in society that will ensure the protection of many species across a broad canvas.

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