When I first heard that the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, my heart sunk. It doesn’t seem the case, especially when you live in the greener parts of the country, but the UK’s natural environments and biodiversity is under threat. To put it into perspective, more than one in seven native species in the UK are in danger of extinction and over half are in decline. The nature we have left is precious and urgently needs protection and restoration.
Biodiversity is the life, species and ecosystems on our Earth. It is bursting from a single ancient tree, flourishing in healthy coral reefs and ponds that are thriving with life. The animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms of a biodiverse environment work as a complex and balanced system. Biodiversity should be all around us, but it isn’t.
These rich environments are vital for human existence. We cannot grow food or source water from land barren of biodiversity. Furthermore, plants, trees and wetlands are a natural solution to our climate emergency. They breathe in carbon and breathe out oxygen. Yet we still continue to cut away at whats left of our countries small amount of wilderness.
Urbanisation is a huge cause of the loss of biodiversity. Woodlands are torn apart, leaving animals homeless and vulnerable. We see foxes and badgers dead on the side of a road far more than we see them alive. Roads, housing, train lines, tourist attractions and other human developments are taking over what was once natural beauty. For too long we have been prioritising human comfort and gain over nature despite our own dependancy on it to survive.
Industrial agriculture is another big factor of habitat loss. Farmland covers 70% of the UK, a lot of which grows grain to feed livestock for meat and dairy consumers. Industrial agriculture practices causes desertification, which is when the soil is so over worked that all nutrition is lost. The dry dirt that is left emits carbon into the atmosphere, whereas healthy soil absorbs carbon. The food this dirt produces contains zero nutrients or micro-organisms that humans require to be healthy. We
have already lost one third of the world’s top soil since industrial agriculture ramped up in the 1970’s.
The UK’s natural environments are in danger, but it’s not all doom and gloom. People and organisations are working all over the country to protect and restore biodiversity. There are solutions, and we can all help out in some way or another.
Regenerative agriculture is a wonderful way that farmers are growing food while enriching their land by restoring soil biodiversity and allowing the land to grow wildly and abundantly. Rewilding is another way people are restoring biodiversity to land and sea. A struggling ecosystem can be rewilded by analysing its natural process and working with it to recover its biodiversity. It brings the area back to life and encourages the return of native species. Another important approach is reforestation, which is the planting and raising of native trees and plants.
There are many ways we can help out as individuals. Start with learning about environmentalism, perhaps focusing on a topic that intrigues you the most, whether that’s sustainable fashion or coral reef conservation. Follow environmentalist social media accounts, podcasts, newsletters and read books. Knowledge is power!
Spread the message of our climate emergency and discuss the information you discover. Start or join an environmentalism group at your place of study or in your local community. Gather like-minded people and see what change you can make. Something I’ve started doing on my nature walks is taking a bag with me to litter pick. Doing this in a group is a wonderful way to have fun and help the environment!
How and what we consume is one of our biggest powers. When possible, purchase sustainably produced, low waste and vegan products that are made in the UK. Support local and independent businesses to help the local economy. Buy second hand to reuse existing items. Switching to renewable energy, avoiding single-use plastic, composting and investing in reusable products are all great changes to make too.
Reducing or cutting out meat and animal products from your diet is another way to make a huge impact. Beef livestock and farming uses the most land and resources by far, so even just cutting that out makes a big difference. An alternative is to buy from local ethical and sustainable farms, cutting down on the carbon footprint behind your animal products.
If you have a garden, make the most of it! Grow your own food and herbs, plant flowers that attract pollinating insects, put up a bee hotel or let it grow wild! Renting an allotment could also be a great option to create your own natural haven.
Join or support organisations that work to protect and restore biodiversity and rewild the UK. Even just following them online, sharing their posts, signing petitions and commenting your supportive words makes a difference. To help with reforestation, look into offsetting your personal or businesses carbon footprint and support tree planting organisations.
Every action to help the planet is needed and valuable, no matter how big or small. As David Attenborough said in A Life on Our Plant, ‘If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.’