Emma Marsh: Feathers and Feminism with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Kazakh Antelopes

Apr 4 2023

David visits the HQ of the RSPB in Sandy to meet the most recent Director of RSPB England, Emma Marsh

David Oakes

David Oakes


Emma Marsh


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About this episode:

Emma Marsh sits on the Executive Board at The RSPB, and was until recently the Director of RSPB England. But, despite working for the nation’s largest bird charity (the RSPB is actually Europe’s largest conservation charity!), she says that she is not a twitcher, rather that “…being in nature just feels right. Everything is right in the world when nature’s right.” Raised on a farm, yet having studied International Relations at University, it is no surprise that Emma is well placed to discuss the manner in which enviro-NGOs interact with the current government; she also shares her hopes for who the RSPB will be dealing with in the future, and how the People’s Plan for Nature should keep Governments accountable to the people they profess to serve. In this walk around the Sandy nature reserve – the headquarters of the RSPB – Emma explains how the RSPB’s roots lie with the Victorian women of the ‘Fur, Fin and Feather Folk’, and how it is still managed as an inclusive movement. We hear how Emma hopes to make the RSPB a home both for nature and for as diverse a group of mammalian bipeds as possible. All this, and the animals closest to the RSPB’s heart: Wrens, Avocets and Kazakh Saiga Antelopes?!

David's thoughts:

I was bought a cuddly Puffin at Sandy nature reserve before I was 10. I then subscribed to what was called the Young Ornithologist Club. It was probably the start of the conservationist in me. To return to Sandy around 30 years on, with a chance to grill one of the RSPB’s directors, was not only a real treat but also felt like I was completing the first revolution of a circle.

To hear Emma take about hope and optimism, and how the RSPB is initiating nationwide projects like the People’s Plan for Nature, is inspirational. I’m not prone to optimism – I’d say I’m a ‘Realist’ – but she certainly had me feeling more upbeat about some aspects of our nation’s future as I departed Sandy after our walk. As Emma says: “…a conservationist without hope? It could be very bleak!”

To hear first hand how our NGOs are filling the gaping holes left by our government is heartening. We have people constantly in discussion with our overlords to hopefully help them see greener – and that makes me happy.

Is it enough? All I know for certain, is that we would be a LOT worse off without people like Emma and organisations like the RSPB. Do we need them to do more, sure; but that also starts with us. Can we all individually do more to hold ourselves accountable for our planet’s fate? Definitely. Do we? Perhaps not often enough.

Please take the time to look at the People’s Plan for Nature, I think it’s a great idea, and I hope it grows into being a true force for good in the world. Should any child buy a cuddly Puffin at Sandy this year, I hope the world looks greener when you head back again to Sandy to make your podcast in 30 years time.



Emma Marsh (Twitter) – https://mobile.twitter.com/EmmaMarsh5

RSPB – https://www.rspb.org.uk/

People’s Plan for Nature – https://peoplesplanfornature.org/

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