THE STATE OF NATURE & WHY WE NEED TO ACT NOW

This week over 70 wildlife organisations and government conservation agencies launched

The State of Nature

report for 2019. While some environmental milestones have been reached since the last report came out 3 years ago, it was overwhelmingly bad news for Britain's wildlife with 1 in 7 native species heading for extinction. In our lifetime. While this figure was initially quoted in the previous report it seems the situation has worsened dramatically with as many as 1 in 4 mammals set to die out if we don't act fast.

Here are some of the figures released thanks to latest research:

It's a sobering read all right, but not one without hope. This is the jolt to action we need to save our little patch of the planet before it ceases to exist. When I think back to my childhood I remember playing in the garden, collecting worms - God knows what for - and marvelling over tickly woodlice, or 'slaters' as we called them, as they crawled out from under piles of leaves and over my fingers. I remember my Dad showing me my first Red Admiral butterfly and my Mum making up stories about the two collared doves that would sit on the shed, surveying their kingdom from on high. If we don't act now, future generations will never know these animals from anything other than stories that start with, 'When I was a child...'

The truth is we can all do something to save nature. Right now the world is going crazy for a teenager named Greta Thunberg, but she's not the first young person to stand up for the natural world. Twenty-seven years ago a 12 year old Canadian named Severn Cullis-Suzuki silenced a room full of diplomats, much in the same way Greta did at the recent UN summit for Climate Change, while she delivered an impassioned plea for them to act in the planet's interests and work to save it. Twenty years later she returned to Rio to discuss the planet's progress and this time she had an even more damning message: because profit continued to be prioritised over the planet, the human race was hurtling toward a tipping point of the magnitude last experienced by Earth 12,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. The situation had almost irreparably worsened since her first appearance at the UN. 'Almost' being the key word here.

It seems we still have time to save the world we live in but it's running out fast. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the planetary problem that's staring us in the face but that's no reason to stick our heads in the sand. I mean, look where that has got us so far.

Instead, grab your coat and let's go outside. Whether you live in the heart of the city or among rolling hills, wildlife is all around us. One of the birds that is in dangerous decline in the UK is the humble starling. A traditionally migratory bird, it's often been unfortunately labelled as a being bit of a pest. Starlings like to hang out in big groups and can be quite the chatterboxes, known for making a racket. But what they lack in noise control they more than make up for in their evening performances when they become air acrobats to form a swarm across the sky as the sun goes down. This dance is known as a 'murmuration' and if you've never seen one, take a look at the video below:

The good news for starlings is their decline is reversible with a helping hand from us. They are a plucky species who adapt quickly and don't need much to get by. If you have access to a bird feeder at home or at work consider adding some dried mealworms to the mix. Even if you don't see starlings straight away most garden birds enjoy mealworms so you're sure to see an increase in winged visitors either way. And if you want to increase your chances of seeing a murmuration in real life

this website

lists many of the hotspots across the UK.

Butterflies have also been cited in decline in this year's report and, again, this could, to an extent, be reversed but not without our help. Butterflies are pollinators - like bees and moths - and believe it or not that means they are responsible for one in every three bites of food we humans consume. As they travel from plant to plant in search of nectar, they carry pollen on their bodies which allows plants to naturally reproduce. They are vital in maintaining the balance of ecosystems as well as encouraging growth of many of the fruits and grains which sustain our own diets. If you have access to as little as one square metre of outdoor space you can make a difference to pollinators, whether you want to pot pollinator-friendly plants on a balcony or add a border to your garden.

Butterfly Conservation

offers a free guide on how to make your own plot for pollinators to get you started. Another way to attract butterflies to your garden this Autumn is to leave out an overripe banana. This video from RSPB shows you how:

According to the report, pollution continues to be a factor in British nature's decline. Although nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions have decreased since the 1970s we're not out of the woods yet with air quality in urban areas remaining a concern and diverse forms of pollution, like plastic waste and light pollution a concern for fragile plant species. Planting trees in urban spaces, if it's done correctly, is said to reduce air pollution as some of the chemicals are absorbed by the leaves and cling to the trees' bark leaving the air we breathe a little cleaner. If you're London-based and fancy lending a hand why not get in touch with

Trees for Cities

who need volunteers to help plant trees across the capital. If London's too far away or you want to take on a community project,

check out the Woodland Trust

who can provide advice and even tree-planting starter packs to help you on your way to creating a cleaner, greener space.

Not everyone is in the position to spend time planting trees. I understand. There are other ways you can support the environment instead. If you're in the position to, consider making a donation to one of the 70 conservation organisations who compiled the report and enable them to continue their vital work on our behalf.

If you don't have the financial means then perhaps one of the greatest things you can do is lobby your local MP and demand they support parliamentary Bills which will protect British wildlife. (If you're not sure who you're MP is, you can find them

here)

The RSPB has compiled

a great guide

on how to lobby elected officials successfully if you need a little inspiration.

Perhaps the most important message in this year's State of Nature report is to never give up. If we act now we can slow down and even reverse the catastrophic consequences of decades of environmental maltreatment. It's happened before and it can happen again. Before I moved to London I worked for one of the organisations responsible for the report - RSPB. During my time there I had the opportunity to volunteer on a farm clearing nettles that were washed and transported to Rathlin Island, just off the North Coast of Northern Ireland. They were to create 'Corncrake corridors.' These corridors provided an attractive nesting place for Corncrake - a farmland bird which used to be abundant in Northern Ireland but which died out in the 1980s thanks to changes in farming practices and urbanisation. The old adage of 'If you build it, they will come' rang true and

this Summer

two breeding pairs were recorded on the island. It's a slow process - one we're in for the long haul - but absolutely worth it.

See you next Sunday. Until then, keep wondering.

Laura

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