Social Innovation: Sir David Attenborough Launches the Big Butterfly Count

The Butterfly Conservation’s ‘Big Butterfly’ launched last week. Its President, Sir David Attenborough, urged the British public to join the biggest social innovation butterfly count, which runs from 14 July to 5 August. The wettest April for a century with the dampest June on record, with flooding in parts of the U.K., has brought fears that the butterfly is under threat. Prolonged cold, wet weather delays and then reduces the butterflies' life span, hampering mating and egg laying, leading to fewer offsprings. The results of this year's Big Butterfly Count will assess the impact of the British wet weather on our butterflies.

Butterfly Conversation’s Big Butterfly is regarded as the biggest citizen science, social innovation project of its kind in the world and is now in its third year. It works by asking people to go online and record all the common species they spot in a 15-minute window in their garden/or local park. The data alerts conservationists to the species most in danger so efforts can be made to prevent their extinction. Sir Attenborough says, "The fact that every single person can produce a statistic that is of real value is a great spur. But let's not underestimate the spin-offs. Many people will for the first time start taking a careful and critical view of their surroundings. The butterfly count helps butterflies but it also helps natural history and eco-sensitivity in this country."

There are concerns over the common species of butterfly and the Butterfly Conservation hopes this social innovation ‘Count’, which is supported by Marks & Spencer, a U.K. department store, will reveal how the common varieties are doing after data showed a sharp drop in numbers for the familiar garden butterflies. Conservationists fear that this summer's extreme weather will trigger local extinctions of rare species. Poor weather can cause an already rare species to enter a death spiral, becoming so small in number that they never fully recover.

Butterflies are essentially sun-loving insects, who are now coping with the wettest, coldest U.K. spring and summer ever. Most butterflies need warm temperatures and sunshine to acquire enough energy to fly. Though some British butterflies have adapted to survive our miserable summers, the problem is mainly for the rarest species, which are vulnerable to extinction.

I can’t help thinking that as we are counting these beautiful, fragile winged creatures, are we also witnessing their demise... What if this year’s British drenched summer is not an anomaly, but a ‘forecast’ of how our summers will be forever, because it’s a weather pattern created by climate change, where our parks and gardens will be bereft from the jewelled colours of the butterfly. It seems our real chance for the planet is to change our use of fossil fuels to meet our energy needs, which is a contributor to an increase in greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide and methane in the Earth's atmosphere. There is a view that this increase is leading to climate change, killing the environment.

Photo CreditButterfly Conversation Webs