Under the radar, whilst many of us have been focusing our time and attention on the massive coalition that has been the If Campaign, another coalition has been hard at work. For the first time ever, twenty-five wildlife organizations have joined together to undertake a health check of the nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories, which has just been released as The State of Nature Report.
I suspect some of you might stop reading at this point. After all, is this really so important? It’s not like we’ve got any particularly outstanding species in this country is it? No polar bears or tigers; black rhinos or orang utans. And of course many of you reading this don’t even live in the UK.
But please keep reading.
The health of a nation’s wildlife, whatever country we live in, reflects its people and its priorities. It speaks volumes about how we see ourselves, about whether we see the natural world as something separate to our daily lives (something we enjoy at the weekends when we get out of our regular lives into a park or the countryside), or as an integral part of who we are and what it means to be human.
We also do, in fact, have a plethora of amazing wildlife in the UK. If you think you might have forgotten and need reminding, take a look a this.
For those of us reading this who are Christians, the health of a nation’s wildlife is something that ought to be of immense concern to us. After all, we believe that the natural world has been created by a God who loves it, sustains it, has a future for it, and who asks us to care for it, as a part of that community of creation.
And so this report, with all its scientific analyses and assessments, may well do nothing less than break our hearts when we read it because 60% of the species for which we have data in the UK have declined over recent years and 31% of those species have declined strongly.
We don’t see it as we live our normal lives, in our houses, going to work, building our relationships… but our every-day human activity is exacting a heavy toll on the world around us. Intensive agriculture, urbanization, spreading development, climate change, the replacement of natural woodland with conifer plantations, overfishing and more, have all played their part in bringing about the serious decline of so much of the natural world around us. Clouds of butterflies are a thing of the past. How many of you have heard a cuckoo this spring? When was the last time you saw a live hedgehog?
So what can we do? I want to ask you to do three things as a result of this report, and to share this around and ask others to do the same:
1. Support a Wildlife Charity
There is amazing conservation work going on around the country, with some inspiring success stories. But there are never enough resources to do what is really needed, so please consider giving regularly to help that work. A Rocha UK is a great place to start!
2. Get Out and Do Something
Alongside giving your money, do something practical to help: plant a buddleia bush and some lavender; avoid peat-based garden products (there are lots of great wildlife-friendly gardening tips here); do something in your area with your local conservation group.
3. Don’t Eat Intensively Farmed Food
Do all you can to make sure you know where your food comes from; grow/rear your own; support local producers who you know manage their land well; buy vegetables from the supermarket that carry the LEAF marque; learn which fish and seafood are sustainable and good to buy.
The State of Nature Report should be a wake-up call to us all. Let’s each one of us do what we can to help nature’s health, wherever we live.