Festive nature’s wishlist – Horse and Countryside
Christmas, with new year on the horizon, feels like the perfect time to talk about our hopes for a better world. We know that nature is struggling, here in the UK, and across the planet, but at the RSPB we’re optimistic that if we work together we can solve some of the challenges it faces. We’ve been thinking about the kinds of Christmas gifts nature needs right now, to give wildlife a chance to bounce back.
- Put a stop to extinctions
We’re on the verge of losing certain birds, like turtle doves, and other wildlife from the UK. Then there are species we’re likely to lose from the planet forever: this month we learned there are only a few hundred North Atlantic right whales left. Extinction is permanent. We must stop driving animals and plants to extinction and destroying the places they live. We want to reverse those declines, and politicians have the power to make the changes nature needs. For example, legal protection for birds of prey in the UK has helped a number of these magnificent birds return.
- Help farmers boost wildlife on their land
Anyone who has been riding in the countryside for a long time will have noticed that farmland birds are vanishing. In fact farmed land is a bit of a hotspot for bird decline. So we need to improve the way we look after land, and that means looking at how we grow our food. Many farmers are putting in a tremendous amount of work to restore nature. Brexit presents an opportunity for the UK government to reform policies to support their efforts, and encourage more farmers to do the same. Governments should be rewarding farmers for boosting wildlife, but also improving soil, protecting naturally stored carbon. That’ll make a big difference as we try to slow down climate change.
- Protect the oceans
Did you watch Blue Planet II? As well as enthralling us with amazing footage of marine life the show also highlighted a number of threats facing our seas. It’s now clear to everyone why plastic is such a big problem. There’s another issue too: lack of legal protection for vast areas of seas and coasts. We want to see more of our seas protected, giving populations of seabirds and other sealife the chance to recover.
- Cut back on pesticides
One of the reasons for the loss of farmland birds is a lack of insects. We need insects too as they play a vital role in pollinating crops and fruit. However our insect populations have crashed. The reason for this is clear: our reliance on pesticides and other chemicals associated with growing food. We welcomed the recent ban on one group of harmful chemicals, neonicotinoids. But to halt the insect decline, better regulation is needed.
- Support for community projects
One of the most effective ways of saving nature is to involve communities. Neighbourhood groups who campaign to protect land, put up nestboxes, or take other actions to help wildlife can be incredibly powerful. A great example of this is the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery project which successfully removed invasive rats from the islands of St Agnes and Gugh, allowing Manx shearwaters and storm petrels to return. We’d like to see more government support and encouragement for community schemes and nature-friendly businesses.
There are some really good examples of each of these gifts working on a small scale, but imagine the difference we could make if our leaders really took these challenges on. We can all do our bit too, and at the RSPB we’re looking forward to making the most of opportunities to save nature in 2018.
The UK Government has pledged to pass nature on to the next generation in a better condition than in which they inherited it. They have promised to publish a 25-year Environment Plan, to lay out how they’ll do this for England. Find out how you can help here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/leaf-nature-better