It’s easy to feel powerless over certain things, but the planet being in environmental crisis really is something we all need to get involved with. A new report involving the UK’s statutory nature agencies has stressed we must turn “nature positive” by 2030, to reverse the declines in wildlife.
It might come as a surprise, but the UK has been said by experts to be one of the most nature-depleted countries on earth. Yet during the pandemic, we all became reliant on our local spaces in nature for calm and solace.
Thankfully, the report says it’s “not too late” to reverse the decline of biodiversity loss, but that we need to go “high nature and low carbon” in order to achieve it. And suggestions include the protection of more land and sea, increasing sources of finance to nature, reintroducing lost wildlife and planting native tress.
What does ‘nature positive’ mean?
NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska says: “It is everyone’s responsibility to be nature positive.
“We know the twin crises of climate change and nature loss are inextricably linked – we do both, or do neither.”
Rather than simply aiming to become ‘net zero’ – a promise many global leaders previously made – the world must aim to go much further and halt and reverse nature loss instead.
Yes, the old mantra of trying to tread lightly, do less harm and reduce our impact still stands, but simply trying not to contribute to biodiversity loss and climate change isn’t enough anymore.
This way of thinking asks that we go beyond damage limitation and instead ensure our lives – from government policy and business decisions down to individual action – actually enhance the planet and its ecosystems. Being nature positive means actively fighting back to save species and bring back lost biodiversity.
So what can you do?
Really make use of any outdoor space you have
“The combined area of gardens in the UK is more than 400,000 hectares – about a fifth the size of Wales – so it’s a huge space which could be supporting nature,” says Beccy Speight, RSPB chief executive.
“The first place we can start is at home – every backdoor step can hold a saucer of water for a thirsty hedgehog, and every balcony a pot with flowers for pollinators.”
A lot of wildlife likes to move between gardens, so make sure there are some gaps in fences to let hedgehogs and frogs travel. Consider a bird box or a bug hotel to encourage biodiversity, and leave logs or sticks lying around in piles to provide places for beetles to thrive.
Make sure your garden is bee-friendly
Bees are experiencing unprecedented decline and gardens provide essential habitats for bees across the UK, so ensure you are maximising the pollinator potential of your space. Fill your garden with flowering plants that are rich in pollen and nectar, and include plants with a wide range of shapes and colours to attract as many bee species as possible to your garden. Also, ditch the weed killer and let wildflowers grow – rewilding is all the rage right now anyway.
Protect the nature around you
“People can get involved in looking after parks and green spaces by supporting ‘no-mow’ movements and encouraging their local authority to manage these areas for nature,” says Speight.
Research local groups that aim to protect and enhance the green spaces you became so reliant on in lockdown. Many parks are looked after by volunteer groups, often organised by local councils, to assist in the maintenance, and run volunteer gardening sessions to protect them.
“You can also join and/or donate to a conservation charity to help support vital work and get involved personally by volunteering. Lots of volunteers actively help with land management work, which protects and creates habitats for at-risk species.”
Got a garden? Plant trees now for future generations to benefit from. Don’t have the space? Plant one somewhere else by making a donation to the National Trust Tree planting scheme – who are aiming to plant and establish 20 million trees by 2030. The minimum suggested donation is only £5.
Eat in a ‘nature positive’ way
The report notes that, globally, unsustainable fishing is the primary cause of biodiversity loss in our seas and oceans. In fact, one in three fish stocks are considered to be overfished. So only choose fish from responsible sources at the supermarket – and ask questions at fish mongers or in restaurants about where their stock has come from. We support causes every time we spend our cash, so make sure you’re not unknowingly backing the wrong one. Eating more of a plant-based diet helps too.
Make nature the focus of your holidays
Choose a holiday company that actively works to protect and preserve nature, says Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis. “Many of our holidays work to support existing areas of biodiversity, as well as endangered or threatened species, or they work to actively rewild land.
“It’s important to ask questions of your holiday companies and find out what they are doing for nature and biodiversity. Are they really working towards becoming nature positive? Holidaymakers can actively support conservation projects in destinations too, by visiting, showing an interest, paying an entrance fee and coming home and educating others about what they have learnt. Research day trips that contribute to protected areas and help restore habitats.”
And obviously, be aware of excursions that involve wild or captive animals – they often aren’t protecting species at all.
“Supporting a campaign like [the RSPB’s] Revive Our World, which calls on leaders to set legally-binding targets to save nature, then shows the combined strength individuals have when they join forces, and leaves politicians in no doubt that they have to take urgent action to fight the nature and climate emergency,” suggests Speight.
Tweet, post on Instagram email your local MP, and share nature positive ideas with friends.