In the past year the value of the natural environment has been recognised like never before. The COVID lockdowns forced us to stay local and as a result we noticed nature a little bit more, we listened more intently, birdsong seemed louder and it soothed us. We appreciated fresh air and revelled in our local green spaces and for a time we didn’t want the world to go back to its previous busy, noisy, chaotic self.
But now, as normal life starts to resume, we have a choice, a chance to build back greener. Instead of continuing with business as usual, investing in the polluting infrastructure of the past and stripping back environmental protections in the planning system, which will further erode the very foundation on which our economy sits, we could choose a better future. A future with a strong economy and a thriving natural world – is this possible?
I’ve recently witnessed respected business leaders in my region saying that we need to rebuild the economy first so that we can “afford” to protect nature. They are missing the point.
The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of nature.
The recent Dasgupta Review, commissioned by the Treasury, recognises that “the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the biosphere”, and it shows that investing in our natural world will secure the prosperity of future generations. If we don’t, the cost to society will be unthinkable.
One of the most important books I’ve read in the last year is Doughnut Economics. This ground breaking analysis of the problem with our current economic model lays bare the inherent contradiction in the system. In our quest for human progress we’ve undermined our very life support systems. For too long we’ve focused on a narrow obsession with economic growth at the expense of nature, and it is now deteriorating at a speed never previously seen.
Our linear, waste-producing economic models are no longer fit for purpose. They ignore the planetary limits of a finite world, and do not follow the most basic of rules, that of the circular system. There is no waste in nature, everything functions within a circular system of birth, growth, death and regeneration. A circular economy is a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment, and is regenerative by design.
Our economic recovery from Covid-19 must accelerate investment in nature to build back greener and properly integrate nature's value into economic thinking. By regenerating nature and making more space for wildlife, we can improve people’s health and wellbeing, create new green jobs, boost the tourism economy, and help to tackle the climate emergency.
Nature is our strongest ally in building a resilient recovery for everyone.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is working towards a wilder future with at least 30% of land and sea restored for nature. To achieve this, the Trust is already delivering Nature-Based Solutions locally, including our nitrates mitigation scheme developed as part of the wider effort to deal with the issue of nutrient pollution in the Solent. By taking intensively managed farmland and rewilding it, not only are we relieving the pressure on our marine environment, but we are also creating wildlife-rich habitats, reducing pollution, capturing carbon and helping nature to recover.
We also recently joined forces with Boskalis Westminster to undertake a seagrass restoration project within the Solent, which will ultimately support increased biodiversity and sustainable fisheries, promoting cleaner water and creating a natural carbon solution to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The Trust provides professional advice to support new developments and infrastructure to deliver genuine net benefits for biodiversity and improvements for people’s health and wellbeing. Through the Building with Nature programme, we are working with developers to put nature at the heart of developments right from the start.
We are calling on the Government to invest in nature’s recovery.
To create a stronger, smarter, greener recovery, we need joined-up government action to bring wildlife back into everyone’s lives, proving health, social and environmental benefits to those living nearby. We are calling on the Government to invest £1bn annually in nature’s recovery to help reach the goal of at least 30% of land in recovery for nature by 2030.
Far from being seen as a cost, this is one of the wisest investments in our future we can make as a society.
Find out more about the Trusts' response here.