When "Team4Nature" started out, one and a half years ago, a petition to licence upland grouse moors, had just gained a total of 10,429 signatures. We were dumbfounded as to why, when there are millions of members of wildlife charities, so few people were actually signing petitions that protect nature.
Last May, Mark Avery kicked off a petition, to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting, and this time, with the help of a wet, but very successful Hen Harrier Day, it attracted 22,339 signatures. We had abandoned development of local nature networks to try and create a vehicle that informed and engaged more people, This did have some effect, because of a very passionate following! (thank you!). Even though more than twice as many people signed this petition, it still represented just 2% of total RSPB membership and 0.05% of the voting population in the UK!
So third time lucky? Well Mark's NEW petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting has until 21st January 2016 to reach 100,000 signatures and prompt a parliamentary debate.
The petition raced off the blocks and, at the time of writing this piece, had reached 7,792 signatures. So let's see.... 174 days to go....that's an average of 529 signatures every day in order to succeed.
Can it be done? Well yes! Of course it can. So let's do it!:
1. After Coronation Street, when the neighbours come round for a tipple, show them Mark's petition! It's brief and well worded, summing up the problems associated with driven grouse shooting really well (water pollution, flood damage, illegal persecution, which has placed the Hen Harrier on the brink of extinction in England....). The great thing is Mark has spent years in conservation at the top of the 'game' if you pardon the pun. So he does know what he is talking about. It's not like he is a retired cricketer, who has turned up to the wrong match, if you catch my drift!
2. That awkward moment, when you are down the pub and everyone goes quiet....get in there and share! Your mates can complete the petition within 30 seconds on your phone and then confirm the petition when they get back home via their own e-mail.
3. You are sat in a bird hide with some of those one million RSPB members. Along comes that patch where everything out on the lake has decided to hide for a bit....you know what to do, don't you?!
You see networking is easy! Use your passion, as one of the 22,000 that signed last year, to mobilise others. Avaaz means voice, and it is a pretty potent force if delivered with that passion. Even if each of the signatories find just five others that care, then the petition will reach its target.
4. Social-media is amazing for getting things moving, but we have picked up a pattern which is holding back it's full potential. When we start putting out support tweets or posts for a petition, they get loads of retweets or shares. However, once the campaign runs for a while, this decreases, at the very time that sharing becomes important. Every time you share, there is a chance that one of your followers will share it for the first time so that the petition reaches a new network of users. So please, if you see a tweet with Mark's petition on, then please, don't ignore it, because you yourself have already signed. Small acts of teamwork and kindness can really lead to success.
Also it's great to create a tweet or post yourself with the petition link, so don't be shy! Your followers are far more attached to you than us, so putting something out on your banner can, once again, really make a difference, by accessing new networks.
5. Join the UK Guardians of Nature Union (UKGNU)! We are creating a body of passionate individuals and organisations that sign and share petitions, as well as surveys, projects and events. The more members, the greater the social reach, and the more successful, petitions will become. Simple principle really: The UKGNU is due to launch in September, but to help it's membership expand rapidly, it would be great if you could join this thunderclap now (it costs nothing, is safe and helps to spread the message far and wide, by simply sending out one tweet from your account on launch day):
Now! Off you go, and get those butterfly counts done (and don't forget to tell others about it too!).