What even is an Ecological Emergency?

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In a world full of emergencies, do we have the energy for yet another one? Is it any different to the climate emergency and why should we care?
 

I am completely exhausted, aren’t you? For many months we have been trapped inside a seemingly unending health emergency, confined to our homes trying to stay positive on calls to distant family members whilst haplessly educating manic children on the subtleties of trigonometry and Macbeth!

Throughout all this a veritable platter of emergencies to care about are offered up: plastic waste wrapped around marine life, conflicts, poverty, injustice, there are so many voices demanding our empathy, demanding that we care.

This has a real cost, tiredness sets in because we simply cannot cope with another cause to champion when there are so many causes left unsolved, a phenomenon captured in a new term called ‘compassion fatigue’ 1. You do not need me to give you a sparkly new disaster to worry about, so I promise I won’t.

For years we have known about the climate emergency, you are probably familiar with it in fact. Rising global temperatures, damage to ecosystems and a less stable world for us to live in are well-trod topics for you, I am sure. But what is the ecological emergency?

 

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The existing protected wildlife sites and nature reserves are simply too small and too isolated to give nature a secure future

 

Simply put, it is the decline of nature all around us, fewer species and less abundance of natural life due to our actions. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are some of England’s most biodiverse counties: the range of habitats and species make us nationally and internationally special. We are blessed with some of the most important chalk rivers in the world, internationally important coastal habitats, heathlands, chalk downlands and ancient woodlands.

But our local natural environment is not in the state that it should be, our landscapes may look green and pleasant but large areas are intensively farmed, confining nature to the margins. Our parks and green spaces are so popular for recreation that wildlife struggles to cope with the disturbance. The scale and pace of development compounds the pressure. The pressures of climate change, intensive agriculture, unsustainable use of resources and continuous development are causing an ecological emergency.

The result is that our local wildlife is declining at an alarming rate. Many of the important habitats and designated sites are failing. The existing protected wildlife sites and nature reserves are simply too small and too isolated to give nature a secure future. Even in our largest areas - the national parks – rapidly increasing recreational pressure is impacting the fragile wildlife that makes these places special. We must do better.

So how can we summon the energy and mental headspace to care? We can because nature and climate are beautifully intertwined and intimately connected in a dance that offers us hope for a better future. These same habitats that host our wonderful wildlife are also amazing natural solutions to climate change, carbon guzzling seagrass beds and wildflower meadows offer us a holistic way to make nature our greatest ally against this global climate threat. We must restore nature so that nature can help us in return.

 

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Nature and climate are beautifully intertwined and intimately connected in a dance that offers us hope for a better future

 

By making the connections between the climate and ecological emergencies, we understand that there is only one combined crisis to resolve - an imbalance in our world that we have the power to act on locally. As the government’s climate change committee pointed in their carbon budget in 2020 2 restoring our damaged habitats is a key element in our goal of decarbonisation, healthy habitats absorb carbon, degraded ecosystems make the problem worse.

Am I overwhelmed by worry about this combined emergency of ecology and climate? A little. But I know that if we radically restore the richness of nature locally, we will be making our two counties more resilient, more wild and more prepared to face the future. And that is why we should care.

 

1-https://www.salon.com/2019/08/30/how-climate-disasters-can-give-us-comp….

2-https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Sector-summary-Agr…