“We must all decide what world we want to live in.”
Paul Rosalie, Vision for Nature Report, July 2016
The A Focus on Nature Vision for Nature report
Two weeks ago marked a special occasion for the International Development department at the University of East Anglia. Honoring the school’s esteemed former professor Piers Blaikie, often described as one of the foremost luminaries in the field of political ecology, the seventh annual Blaikie Lecture followed the theme set by its predecessors: the current state of the environment.
In true Blaikie Lecture fashion, Piers Blaikie took the stage to give a few succinct words on the guest speaker of the evening hailing “all the way from Ecuador”. After applause rang out, Yolanda Kakabadse took the stage where she held an extended pause before ushering her opening words. Kakabadse was formerly the president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) between 1996 and 2004 and, more recently, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) from 2010 until November 2017. Ranging from the ethics of food to answering a very pointed question on whether “sustainable development” had merely become a catchphrase, the audience was thankful for her presence, poise and candour. One of the segments of her talk that stuck with me, and was received with a unanimous nod out of the gathered audience, was to be thankful, thankful for what we have in our lives.
Her juxtaposition with the notion of “what do we want to see” reminds us all, whether we hold nature close or not, that aspirations, while healthy can occasionally overshadow our immediate situation and surroundings. Many of us as part of A Focus On Nature (AFON) care greatly for our natural environment. We aspire to care more, foster a Britain that can respect the integrity of nature and ensure that those with power – whether politician or industry leader – wield it for the betterment of British society. In the 2016 Vision for Nature Report we sought to elevate the collective voice of young naturalists across the UK, so that our aspirations might be known.
The Vision for Nature Report identifies seven crucial components, each of which addresses a number of specific “recommendations”.
The seven segments comprise of:
- Politics & Economics
- Food & Farming
- Climate Change
- Education & Engagement
- Health, Development & Infrastructure
These “asks” are and should not be limited to government, with the report’s inclusion of the business and nature conservation sectors. For instance, the VfN Report highlights the need to expand resources and training to those arguably more ill-equipped to engage in conservation activities. Inequality and diversity within the wider conservation community have been scrutinised on several fronts: encouraging involvement and dialogue with disadvantaged groups of society; incentivising and prioritising the funding of entry-level positions within the sector; maintaining a “I shall not dismiss” approach to ideas, as Natasha Ballal chronicles. In educating ourselves and others we are often taught that open-mindedness is a virtue.
Development of beneficial practices, whether addressing soil quality, biodiversity decline or both, were spurred by individuals who had visions. Taking measured risks can become commonplace, if we deem wildlife worthy of both our time and sweat. Over a pub meal, a friend recently brought up Knepp Castle Estate, which the government has hailed as a success on accounts of rethinking land use. Noted in the 25-Year Environment Plan, Knepp Estate has been transformed, essentially becoming a rewilding poster child, profitable on accounts of shifting output from arable crops to free-range meats and eco-tourism services. Some of the ideas that lead scientific advisor Frans Vera perpetuates may be of interest to others. And farmers are listening – nearly two years ago, on a fieldtrip to one of (surprisingly) many Manor Farms in central Norfolk, the farmer in question seemed more academically inclined than us students standing at the side of a cover-cropped field with our pens and paper.
Not only are farmers listening to one another, but also attentively disseminating every word Michael Gove utters. Acknowledging the intertwining of health, food and the environment is the least that can be done. However, as outlined in the Vision for Nature Report we believe that the sooner concrete changes are realized across British farms the better.
However, where the 25-Year Environment Plan did set targets made headlines. Whether you pin the blame on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II segment regarding plastic waste or news of scandalous emissions tests cropping up on a near yearly basis (thanks Volkswagen), years have been mentioned. True, you say they’re far off. Yes, they have no discernible quantifiable targets between now and, say 2040, in the case of diesel and petrol cars. Yes, we could definitely enjoy some additional icing on the cake. We could spend hours comparing the Vision for Nature Report with it’s DEFRA counterpart. Thankfully, we can avoid that by returning to the essence of AFON’s campaigns, and moreover environmental activism everywhere.
AFON proposed a 250-year plan that sets in our sights many of the immediate issues faced by Britain and shared around the world. Preparing ourselves for beyond the half-century mark of 2050 is wise no matter your stance on the dreaded 2°C mark; it’s prudent, intergenerational thinking.
We can be thankful for what we currently have in our lives, in addition to building on the foundations to make tomorrow a more environmentally-oriented future. The “Now” and the “Vision” – both can be “For Nature”.