The vast majority of us are all fully aware of the climate emergency. We see this existential threat repeatedly in the news and on social media. However, for reasons that I don’t fully understand, we see much less information about an equally dire threat to ourselves and the rest of nature: the sixth mass extinction. It is now worryingly underway due to what we humans are doing to our planet. You might ask yourself if it matters if a few butterflies and exotic tropical species we’ve never heard of go extinct. Seems like a good question at first glance. But what if our own future could be at risk too?
Well, look what David Attenborough has to say about the importance, for example, of invertebrates to us humans and the whole ecosystem:
If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world's ecosystems would collapse”
It’s just plain simple common sense that we need to protect the life support system our lives literally depend on, isn’t it?
What can little old me and little old you do? Surely we alone can’t make much of a difference. Well, you are right that most of us can’t be international movers and shakers. I certainly feel very limited in the contribution that I can make to halt those two existential threats to our wellbeing. But hang on a minute. What about if billions of us just do a little bit each to make the world a better place for us, future generations and this tiny blue dot that we call home? Large numbers of us all doing our little bit can add up to huge change. Think about it; even the President of the USA alone in the jungle would be almost helpless. His power ultimately lies in hundreds of millions of people all working together to make a difference for good or bad.
Here are a few ideas of what we can do:
Learn and connect with the natural world much more. Many of us are totally divorced from and ignorant about the life support system that we depend on for our very existence. How can you care about your environment, if you almost never encounter it and know almost nothing about it? Just start with something small, like learning the names of five native trees or the eating habits of, say, a hedgehog.
For those of us who live in urban environments (the majority of us do these days), we can make where we live a place where we and nature can flourish together. I used to be a beekeeper. Did you know that bees often do better in urban locations due to the huge variety of plants for them to feed on in gardens and in public spaces compared to the often monoculture of the countryside that is heavily sprayed with all kinds of noxious chemicals. Why not join us as a volunteer, donate or buy a bird box to make a difference here in Worcester? Or look for similar opportunities, if you live elsewhere.
Doing something imperfectly is so much better than waiting until circumstances are just right. Huge numbers of us having a go, fumbling forward, is better than a few of us doing things perfectly. Plant a few wild flowers in one corner of your tiny garden this year, for example. Next year make a wee wildlife pond for frogs, toads, newts and all manner of species. One step at a time.
Find your tribe. We all need support and inspiration from like-minded people. Sometimes we can feel alone and discouraged. It’s one reason that we’ve started our inspiring Zoom talks on a wide range of environmental topics. It feels good when we are able to flock together with birds of the same feather, doesn’t it?
Don’t forget the power of words. “I hate you.” “I can’t live without you.” “You are an idiot.” “I admire you.” Powerful, aren’t they? One of the three aims of The WEG - Worcester Environmental Group is “To educate the residents of Worcester about the biodiversity in our area.” In my experience, many residents and indeed our political representatives lack even a basic knowledge of the amazing nature all around them. It can be a joyous experience to share one’s sense of wonder, love and understanding of nature with others.
It’s for this reason that on Tuesday 21st July at 7pm I attended (on Zoom), as a member of the public and a representative of Worcester Environmental Group, the Worcester City Council Environment Committee. Interestingly, I was the only member of the public to attend, as is often the case. Perhaps many people are unaware that they can attend their local authority meetings. In Worcester you can request five minutes to “present a petition, ask a question or comment on any other matter on the Agenda or within the remit of the Committee.”
I delivered a presentation (go to 4 minutes on the audio recording) with slides about the need for Worcester City Council to declare a biodiversity emergency alongside the climate emergency that was declared in 2019. Joy Squires, the Chair of the Environment Committee, announced that they haven’t yet declared a biodiversity emergency, but it’s “something we will be keen to look at in the near future.” It is now our intention to contact all of Worcester City Councillors urging them to back a motion to declare a biodiversity emergency. We will certainly be sending them the really inspiring document: Cambridge City Council motion for the declaration of a biodiversity Emergency - May 2019.
You have the same opportunity here in Worcester and wherever you live to talk to your elected representatives. I find contacting them individually too, where appropriate, to be a very positive experience often with an opportunity to deepen understanding and personal connections.
I’m also often surprised how a few words to a family member, a friend, a neighbour or a colleague can have quite an impact. I have really lovely neighbours nearby who have always mown their front lawn religiously to within a millimetre of its life on a regular basis. Recently I noticed that they had the most amazing display of the native wildflower selfheal waiting patiently to emerge if it was given a bit of slack. I happened to compliment my neighbour on how fantastic his selfheal was and how lucky he was to have such a lot of it waiting to burst forth to provide vital sustenance for our beleaguered insects. And guess what? I’ve noticed that for the first time ever they have left a sizeable circle in the middle of their front lawn to grow a bit longer.
You have more power than you realise to make a difference. We all just need to put one foot in front of the other and repeat. Please join me on this journey. I’m so weak alone. Together we can change the world.