The long-term consequences of reduced funding are not yet clear, but we are worried. The Wildlife Trusts and other environmental charities are pressing the point with Government that our work to protect and restore nature is not just a nice-to-have, but a vital public service which becomes all the more important as we come to terms with a post-Covid future.
In the short term, we have put 40% of our staff into furlough and are cutting as many costs as we can. We have put projects on hold. With reduced staff and volunteer resources much of our vital conservation work is a real challenge. But with a predicted loss of income close to £300,000 this year, we have no choice. A huge thank you to all our members and others who continue to support the Trust, we need you more than ever.
2020 was going to be one of the most exciting years for Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust in a long time. Last year we launched our ambitious WILDER strategy and received an incredible response. We saw our membership grow by 8% and hundreds of people stepped forward to join Team Wilder and take action for nature’s recovery.
We have been buoyed by the interest shown by individuals, landowners, businesses, and partner organisations in our Wilder Land & Sea ambitions: to treble the space for nature and create a large, connected network for wildlife right across our two counties. This nature network needs to cover at least a third of our land and sea, but it can be made up of hundreds and thousands of spaces – from city streets, to gardens, to farms, to large rewilding projects and everything in between.
Covid-19 has slowed us down but it has not dampened our ambition.
It has thrown up many challenges for us – as it has for everybody else. As well as the financial pressures, working from home (if you can), dealing with isolation, not being able to do what we normally do, going without, living in this strange new situation, is not easy. It’s made me really appreciate my health, my family, and the nature on my doorstep. I’m lucky and I fully appreciate many people are really struggling. But as an optimist, I am using this time to slow down a bit, enjoy nature, reflect, think and plan for the future.
A new normal?
Many people I am sure cannot wait to get back to normal. My hope is that we will create a new normal – something better than the old normal. The old normal is where our seas and rivers are polluted, where our air is dangerous to breathe, where wildlife is just hanging on in tiny fragments of wild space, where insect numbers have been decimated by chemicals, where climate change threatens an even bigger crisis than this one.
Lockdown has forced a pause in the pace of so-called normal life. And, if you look carefully, it has shown us a tantalising glimpse of what a better future could be – what our new normal could, and should, look like.
The usually murky and brown water of the Solent is clearer than any of us have ever seen, the result of reduced shipping along with settled weather. In the New Forest, ground-nesting birds have been seen building nests along empty tracks, and grey seals have been spotted on deserted beaches. Blue skies free of endless contrails are incredibly beautiful and the air feels cleaner with less traffic on the roads. Bird song sounds louder and people are noticing and enjoying nature far more. Wildlife is even reclaiming the streets in some places!
But let’s not kid ourselves, nature may be enjoying a temporary respite but it’s not in recovery yet. When this crisis is over, nature will still be in decline. The ecological and climate crisis is an even bigger threat to humanity.
This is why our vision for a Wilder future is so vital.
To restore the natural abundance of species and heal our damaged planet, we need at least a third of our land and sea returned to nature. More nature means cleaner air and water – and it will reduce the impact of climate change. Scientists say that 30% more nature protected would stabilise climate change, and a further 20% of natural places restored would maintain it.
We have to redouble our efforts as soon as we can – ensuring that we press upon the government the need for new laws and policies (such as the Environment Bill which has been paused) to drive investment in nature’s recovery.
A new normal is not just a dream – it’s a necessity. The coronavirus crisis is rightly focusing people’s minds on health right now, but polling indicates that many people want a green recovery afterwards, not a return to the old normal.
We are starting a series of blogs discussing the idea of a new normal – as part of relaunching our WILDER vision.
Our ambition remains strong and we are pushing ahead with plans to rewild parts of our counties, bring missing species back and inspire wilder communities in every town.
What coronavirus has taught us is that creating a wilder future is more urgent than ever and that we have to work together to create the new normal in which our vision becomes a reality.
Please continue to support us in whatever way you can. If you are a member or donor, thank you for sticking with us in this difficult time. We can make great things happen if we all work together.
Here’s to a wilder future and a new normal. Stay safe.