Farming, Food, Folk, and Community

The new State of Nature report for the UK came out last week, the first report since 2019. It’s not good news (although there will be good news before the end of this newsletter, I promise!).

The UK’s natural environment continues to decline and degrade. According to the State of Nature, the UK is now “one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth’

According to the National Trust website, 43% of birds, 31% of amphibians and reptiles, and 28% of fungi and lichen are in decline. Pollinators like bees and butterflies are among the worst-hit groups, falling by 18%.

Much of this loss is because of habitat destruction or degradation. Only 1 in 7 natural habitats is thriving, with a tragic 93% of woodlands deemed to be in less than “good condition”.

The Conservative Government is set to miss its target for 75% of rivers and streams to be in good condition by 2027, with just 14% of surface waters in good ecological condition in England and 0% in good overall condition.

The UK has now lost more than half its biodiversity because of human activity. Intensive farming and climate change are the two biggest drivers of nature loss.

The good news (as promised) is that the tide is turning. Key to this is the idea that human activity and nature don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It doesn’t have to be either/or – it can be “and”. We can meet human needs and allow nature to thrive.

In her wonderful book, Braiding Sweetgrass, botanist and indigenous writer Robin Wall Kimmerer shows how respectful harvesting can enhance the wellbeing of the natural world. Humans are not a blight on nature – we’re part of it.

In response to the State of Nature report, the National Farmers Union’s President Minette Batters says: “What we ask is that proposals to boost nature recovery simply sit alongside equally ambitious plans for food production.” It’s possible. And policy-makers have a role to play in providing the right incentives to make it probable.

Planet Local Summit

On a related note, last weekend I was at the Planet Local Summit in Bristol, a fabulous event that took me right back to my roots as an environmental advocate and champion for local communities and localised food production. The event featured a constellation of star speakers, including Iain McGilchrist, Vandana Shiva, Charles Eisenstein, Roger Hallam, Zac Goldsmith, Jeremy Lent, Satish Kumar, Bayo Akomolafe, John Perkins, Jeremy Lent, Lyla June Johnston, and the event’s prime mover, Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures, a book which has had a profound effect on my thinking.

To get a flavour of localism and how it can contribute to thriving of people and planet, try these videos:
Going Local (2:30 mins)
Local Food Can Save The World (3 mins)
The Economics of Happiness (19 mins)

Doubling Nature

And the weekend before that, I was at the Lib Dem party conference, where I was delighted by the resolution to “Double Nature” – doubling the amount of land that is protected and managed for nature, doubling the area of the most important habitats, and doubling species abundance by 2050. Plus:

  • Introducing a ‘Right to Nature’, establishing everyone’s right to healthy air, clean water and access to nature.
  • Halting sewage discharges by mandating major sewage infrastructure upgrades as well as reducing other river pollution and setting new “blue flag” standards for rivers.
  • Reforming the planning system to ensure decisions are compatible with nature’s recovery and climate change mitigation, and designating more areas for wildlife.
  • Introducing an Environment and Wellbeing Budget, focused on ensuring we are a country that is rich in nature.
  • Providing a fair deal for farmers with a long-term funding guarantee, based on public money for public goods, to pay for a shift to a wildlife-friendly, high welfare, climate-positive and economically thriving farming sector.

As Tim Farron MP writes, “our new policy is a promise to future generations that we will not stand idly by while our natural world withers away. Together, we can build a greener, more sustainable future for all.”

Roz at Large

I’m appearing with Wilder Journeys editor Laurie King at the Blue Earth Summit in Bristol on 11th October at 5pm, and speaking at Explorers Connect, also in Bristol, at 7pm on 12th October.

In the meantime, if you live in the Cotswolds you’re likely to see me out and about on a frequent basis. Look out for the yellow hat – and I’ll be under it!

Quote of the Week

“As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Have a great week!


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