‘Bloom or bust?’: Climate change isn’t the only environmental crisis we face

Overpromising and underdelivering is a charge frequently levelled at the current UK government. Now an influential committee of MPs has accused ministers of failing to match their fine words with decisive action when it comes to tackling the biodiversity crisis and protecting UK wildlife. Campaigners are calling for legally-binding targets for nature and biodiversity that are as ambitious as those for climate change. Children — “the great hope” for the survival of the planet, according to Sir David Attenborough — must be at the centre of any strategy for the future. That’s why curriculum reform is urgently needed. Life-Based Learning emphasises the importance of children learning about the environment and nature, so that they are aware of the immense challenges the planet faces and the part they can play in helping build a more sustainable future.

The Environmental Audit Committee’s report — Biodiversity in the UK: Bloom or bust? — says that the government is failing to stem huge losses of plants and species and that it spends far more on exploiting the natural environment than it does on conserving it. The report also criticises the government for failing to turn its rhetoric into reality:

Although there are countless government policies and targets to ‘leave the environment in a better state than we found it’, too often they are grandiose statements lacking teeth and devoid of effective delivery mechanisms.

Philip Dunne MP, Environmental Audit Committee Chair

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today, Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, a coalition of nature charities, talked of the “slow ebbing-away of wildlife and diversity and the wonders around us”, warning that familiar species such as water voles, cuckoos, turtle doves and hedgehogs may become a thing of the past unless urgent action is taken.

The EAC’s report says that the UK has the lowest remaining levels of natural biodiversity among the G7, effectively the world’s richest nations. This BBC article sets out the biodiversity crisis in five graphics.

However, with fears about climate change increasingly — and rightly — making headline news, there is a risk that the threats to biodiversity and the ‘state of nature’ more generally are overshadowed. Richard Benwell, for example, said that there needs to be a net-zero target for nature and biodiversity to match the net-zero target for carbon emissions.

These issues — the damage caused by climate change and declining biodiversity — are of course inextricably linked. In the same Today segment on Radio 4, Andy Purvis, a professor at London’s Natural History Museum, discussed the example of peatland. About 10% of the UK is peatland — a vast carbon sink — but about 80% of it is damaged. If the peatland dries out, massive amounts of carbon will be released into the atmosphere, fuelling global heating.

Wildlife and Countryside Link involves around 60 organisations — from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to the RSPCA and the RSPB. “Our members,” says its website, “are united by their common interest in the conservation and enjoyment of the natural and historic environment. Together they are the joint voice of the environment sector.”

We have argued previously that learning about animals should be a primary-school curriculum priority so that our children grow up with an understanding of the need to care for animals, preserve diversity, protect habitats and manage the use of animals in sustainable ways to the mutual benefit of humans and the planet. Many of the organisations that are involved with Wildlife and Countryside Link have websites with teaching and learning resources for use in the classroom to support schools in delivering meaningful nature education. You can read a full list of the organisations here.

We recently highlighted the BBC ‘Plant Britain’ initiative, another fantastic opportunity to boost nature education and a chance for children and young people, families and schools to get involved in improving the environment and help make a visible difference for the future. It starts with a goal of planting 750,000 trees, “one for every UK primary school starter in 2020”, and over the next two years will extend to fruit, vegetables and flowers.

There are lots of ways that children can get involved in helping to care for and preserve nature. Kids for Saving Earth is an American not-for-profit organisation set up by two parents in memory of their son who was passionate about the need to create a healthy planet. As well as resources for schools, it has lots of ideas for simple, easy-to-do eco-activities that children can have fun trying out.

The mission of Kids for Saving Earth is to educate, inspire, and empower children to protect the Earth’s environment. Kids for Saving Earth provides educational materials, posters, and a highly acclaimed website featuring environmental education curriculum and activities. Many of our programs have been adapted to the Internet to make it faster and less costly to provide Earth-savers with updated information. Through Kids for Saving Earth’s Green Shop, you can order educational posters, certificates, guidebooks, CD’s, “green” gifts and supplies, and much more.

from the Kids for Saving Earth website

Life-Based Learning promotes an appreciation of the importance of plants, animal life and the wellbeing of the planet as a whole. Plant Life, Animal Life and Physical World are three of LBL’s nine curriculum themes that will bring a life focus to the curriculum for children aged 5 to 11 and ensure that they are learning the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will enable them to live sustainable lives in harmony with the needs of the planet.

Read the Report

Click to read the EAC’s report in full

Wildlife and Countryside Link

Click to visit the website of this coalition of nature charities

Kids for Saving Earth

A website packed with ideas for how children can play their part

Image at the head of this article by Christel SAGNIEZ from Pixabay.

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