Hopes for a wilder 2021

Fox - Danny Green/2020VISION

The advance of last year left many of us reeling in its excremental wake. Some of us faced tragedy, many of us real hardships and all of us, I would venture, some measures of stress and anxiety. But embedded in the ordure, there have been glimmers of hope for a better, more sustainable and wilder future.

When I woke early this morning to let my irritating cat out into the garden, I was treated to the wistful song of a robin, flinging his soul into the gloom like Thomas Hardy’s darkling thrush. His notes came flowing into the bedroom (along with an icy draught, it should be said), and I couldn’t help but be lifted by it, as if it were a clarion of hope. I’m more than hopeful for this year, though; I’m excited for it. 2021 could be a pivotal year for wildlife, especially if the outpouring of public concern for declines in nature we saw in 2020 continues. We’ve been making new laws on the environment on a scale we’ve not seen for a generation. A new Agriculture Act will focus support for farmers more squarely on delivering good things for the environment. And the new Environment Bill is our chance to address the nature and climate emergency in law.

Robin - Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Robin - Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

A public movement for change

I had been intending to present these opportunities as the context within which we can all come together to deliver meaningful change. But the more I think on it, the more convinced I am that our coming together as a social movement – that’s you and I doing our bit for nature and the environment – should be the grander context; the backdrop and stage upon which the Environment Bill and Agriculture Act play out.

We must ensure that we rebuild better out of the rubble of last year. There were some encouraging side effects of lockdown. It has been widely accepted, for example, that employers can be more flexible with working arrangements, and that the daily commute to work might not always be necessary. We have explored and learned to value our local green spaces like never before. Covid-19 has highlighted just how important these spaces are for our health and wellbeing, and it might reasonably be hoped that with 84,000 hectares of, mostly nature-depleted, publicly accessible urban green space, the time is right for a concerted effort and investment in improving them and creating more of them for both nature and people.

Enjoying nature - Matthew Roberts

Enjoying nature - Matthew Roberts

More people taking action for nature

The recognition of the value of local green spaces is a great start, but if our green recovery is to really kick into gear in 2021, we need everyone to join us in acting for nature. The Wildlife Trusts are calling for at least 30% of our land and sea to be connected and protected for nature’s recovery by 2030. We see this as a bare minimum, and we want Gloucestershire’s response to the 30 by 30 campaign to be nothing short of phenomenal. Guided by our work on a Nature Recovery Network for Gloucestershire, we are identifying areas where we can work at scale to create a wilder county. And we want to see wilder towns and villages within these wilder landscapes. It is exciting, it is eminently possible, and together (without wanting to sound cheesier than is absolutely necessary) we can make it happen.

It’s time for us all to be activists. We will need your help not just to take action, but to help us spread the word – we can no longer afford to preach just to the converted. It is right that we all start with small steps, and there are lots of easy things we can do that will make a big difference when undertaken at scale – your little patch of wild garden on its own, for example, may not individually mean too much, but when the whole street is doing it, the whole town, the whole county, then there are huge gains to be made for nature.

Elephant hawk-moth in garden - Tom Marshall

Elephant hawk-moth in garden - Tom Marshall

New Year resolutions for nature

Easy steps, then, are where we start. But then we need to challenge ourselves. We will help you on this journey – in fact, we can all do it together, so please watch out for the call to arms. Our intention is to work with everyone to do much more for the environment, and to demonstrate that the future lies in your hands; we can all be empowered to make a difference. This could be through making your own patch increasingly more attractive to wildlife, it could be through joining and working with us in various different ways, lobbying your MP, working with your parish or town council to improve local green spaces and reducing your personal (and thus our collective) impact on the planet. Yes, we’re up a certain creek, but we all have a paddle, and in 2021 we’ll help you to use yours to best effect; an opportunity to give something back to nature, which has always given us so much.