This article is designed to inform you of essential facts, prompt you to reassess certain behaviours and empower you to be part of the solution.
We can come back from the brink
The situation for nature around the world is dire. Half of the world’s forests have been lost since 1970 to make way for agriculture, development and resource extraction. Due to human activity, phytoplankton has plummeted by more than 40% during the last 50 years. These organisms provide 70% of our oxygen and remove most of our carbon dioxide. If trends continue, life on Earth may become impossible. We only have 47% of coral reefs on our ocean left and every year more is bleached into extinction through rising sea temperatures. We are in a throes of a sixth mass extinction, or first extermination. 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within a few years. Over 200 species are going extinct every day. Each species that dies has a knock on effect for hundreds, if not thousands more – including us.
To many, these issues may seem distant and obscure. And that is part of the problem. We think that because something is far away, we can’t have a direct impact. But that’s not true. We are utterly connected to nature and yet most of us have seemed to have forgotten this, we take it for granted and forget how dependent we are on it. We have disrupted the balance potentially beyond repair, but it’s not too late. The actions we take today, if we all do it, can create a wave of momentum that could bring us back from the brink of collapse.
By using renewable energy, detoxing our lives, reducing our waste, and switching to ethical banking – to name a few – we have more impact on distant forests, oceans and far away communities than we think.
But we also need to think locally. If we all pay attention to what is happening in our community, on our doorsteps, we will find that there are urgent issues close to home that we can have a direct and tangible effect on for ourselves, our neighbours and our wildlife.
So, whether you have a garden, access to one, a balcony or none of these at all, we can all do things that can help nature thrive and reduce our impact on the planet.
Our governments could do much more to support nature at home and across the world. Unfortunately, most are too vested in climate polluting industries and lobbies to make the necessary protections a reality.
It is down to all of us to place and maintain pressure on our governments to support nature. Whether that’s through protest (in the UK, the HS2 rail route is slicing through the English countryside, destroying some of its most beautiful ancient habitat) or interrogating what measures your local council has to protect wildlife.
- From voting to protesting: how our actions within democracy effect the climate crisis
- How climate activism is all around us
- Why we need to be talking about the crisis and how to do it properly
Whatever your access to nature, you must do your bit to support it. If it’s your personal garden or space then you have full control of making a biodiversity hotspot. If it’s your local park or garden, contact the owning authority and ask what they are doing to support nature in that location. Every piece of natural land is a treasure that needs protecting.
Stop using pesticides. They are poisons that kill any insect that lands on them, not just slugs and aphids, but bees and butterflies alike.
Stop using weed killer. Again, it’s a poison. Anything that lands on the treated plant will die. This is especially true for dandelions which are visited by hundreds of bees as they are the first flowers out in the spring. Treating weeds is killing thousands of pollinators.
Is there a space for wildlife? Could you make a small wildflower meadow? Even a single metre is a critical oasis for local wildlife.
If you have dead wood, pile it up somewhere discreet and leave it. This will be a home for thousands of types of insects, bugs and beetles.
Leave your hedgerows. Cutting hedges in spring and summer upsets nesting birds and causes the death of hatchlings. It’s also bad for the plant. Cut in autumn and winter when the energy is stored in the trunks and root systems.
Provide a water source. A simple pond (literally a shallow tray with some gravel) will attract and rescue huge amounts of wildlife to your open space.
Pollinators are usually insects (although include some birds and bats) that move between flowers spreading pollen. This process is vital for producing seeds, fruits and vegetables. In fact, most of the food we eat. Without pollinators, food supplies around the world will collapse. It’s as simple as that. No pollinators, no food.
Pollinators are declining at a catastrophic rate around the world. In the US, since 2015 alone 30% of its bee population has disappeared and nearly a third of all bee colonies have perished because of manmade activities. If bees continue to die off at the current rate, it would set off a chain reaction, affecting plants, animals, terrain, and eventually human life.
Every action, no matter how small and local, is vital.
Plant native flowers in whatever garden or outside space you have, even if that’s just a small window box.
Plant all year round using a variety of flowers, changing their size, shape and colour. This will help support different species.
Ask your local authority what they are doing to encourage wildflowers in your area and see if they have a ban on using weed killer on the streets.
Planting in sunny spots, not exposed to harsh weather conditions, is preferable.
Provide a shallow water source. A plastic container with some stones and water is enough for most pollinators.
Make a bee box. You can make them from scratch or you can put some bamboo tubes into an old tin can. Hang them away from wind and near flowers and make sure they’re kept somewhere dry and sheltered once the mason bees aren’t around to ensure they’re good to go the next year.
Like all animal groups, birds of all shapes and size are under threat. From the climate crisis to biodiversity loss, from hazards during migration to a collapse in habitat – we are on the brink of losing entire animal groups.
Birds don’t just sound and look pretty. They are a key component in any ecosystem. Without them, habitats would dramatically change, particularly with the inundation of insect species.
Get a bird feeder. If you don’t have space outside, a suction feeder on a window is perfect for smaller birds.
If you can, hang up nest boxes. Be sure to pick the right type for the bird species in your area and find out where you should place it. For example, house martins nest against houses but blue tits nest in leafy trees. Clean it once a year when empty.
Provide a water source. If you don’t have a garden, suction pad baths are a great choice. Otherwise consider a bird bath. They don’t have to be expensive. A plastic tub with water may save a bird’s life on a hot day.
Contact your local authority to ask what they are doing to support birds in your area. Assess what they tell you and if you don’t like it, demand a change.
Charities around the world are working hard to support nature as it continues to be threatened by the climate crisis and human activity. Supporting these charities through donations, volunteering or just increased exposure all helps them do vital work.
Many charities will also assist you in helping wildlife in your area, whether that’s providing information on building bee boxes to petitioning your local authority to make the necessary changes.