Safeguarding nature and the environment

Safeguarding nature

The evidence is clear: the general public care deeply about nature and the environment. According to new polling, four in five UK adults believe that nature is under threat and that more needs to be done urgently to safeguard it. And we already know that children and young people are passionate about environmental matters. Now we read that the leaders of three major conservation groups are hinting at the possibility of direct action by their members to challenge what they call the government’s U-turn on safeguarding nature. The concept of Life-Based Learning developed as a response to the urgent challenges we face. Safeguarding nature is one such challenge. That’s why nature, the environment, the animal kingdom, the physical world, sustainability — in short, humankind’s relationship with and appreciation of the world around us — would be a central focus of a truly life-based approach to learning.

The new poll, commissioned jointly by the National Trust, the RSPB and WWF, was published last week to coincide with the launch of the People’s Plan for Nature. The poll found that:

  • 81% of UK adults believe nature is under threat and that more needs to be done urgently to protect and restore it
  • 48% are willing to take action themselves to reverse the damage
  • 42% don’t feel empowered to do so

Interviewees were asked to select up to three things they’d most want to see in their local area to improve nature and wildlife. The suggestions with the highest percentages were, in order:

  • more action for cleaner rivers, waterways and seas
  • more protection for nature in the planning and house building system
  • strengthened legal protection for nature, wildlife and habitats
  • more wildlife reserves to protect habitats and increase wildlife diversity
  • more funding to restore and protect nature-friendly spaces in farmlands

There is growing concern that, as part of its ‘growth, growth, growth’ agenda, the government of Liz Truss is preparing to water down or even abandon green pledges made by previous administrations, including its immediate predecessor led by Boris Johnson. Key concerns relate to:

  • proposals for low-tax investment zones which may remove what some have described as ‘burdensome’ environmental and planning rules
  • the possibility that the government may scrap the proposed Environment Land Management Scheme devised by the former environment secretary Michael Gove, which will pay farmers and landowners to enhance nature rather than simply paying landowners for each acre of land they own
  • fears that a bill passed in September to end the special status of retained EU law in the UK may lead to the watering-down or abandonment of as many as 570 laws covering aspects of the environment, from sewage pollution and pesticide use to protection for wildflower meadows and wetlands
  • the awarding of as many as 100 new licences to companies to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea in a bid to improve energy supplies

In the case of oil and gas, the decision is clearly at odds with the view of international climate scientists who say that fossil fuel projects need to be closed down, not expanded, and that there should be no new projects at all if there is to be a chance of keeping global temperature rises under 1.5°C.

The three charity chiefs, Hilary McGrady (National Trust), Beccy Speight (RSPB) and Tanya Steele (WWF) said in a collective statement:

This government, elected on their greenest ever manifesto, is now contemplating breaking its promises on vital protections for the UK’s nature, risking catastrophic consequences. From abandoning fundamental legal protections for wildlife to failing farmers committed to sustainable agriculture, this would be an attack on nature at the worst possible time.

The concept of Life-Based Learning developed as a response to the urgent challenges humanity faces. Safeguarding nature and the environment is one such challenge. We need to think both short-term and long-term – and children and young people must, almost by definition, be central to any long-term strategy. We already know that children and young people value nature and the environment. A 2020 survey by Natural England of 1,500 children aged between 8 and 15 found that:

  • 83% agreed that being in nature made them very happy
  • 82% agreed that they would like to do more to protect the environment
  • 78% said that protecting the environment was important to them

LBL is predicated on the notion that children need to be learning about issues such as the climate emergency, environmental degradation, the need for sustainability and other such challenges. But the aim is not to frighten or to spread a fatalist mindset. On the contrary, LBL is about agency and empowerment, giving young people the knowledge, knowhow and skills to lead healthy, sustainable and happy lives.

Image at the head of this article by Petra from Pixabay.

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