Nature in Danger – Bristol’s Organisations Discuss Protecting our Environment
13th March 2017
Over 100 people packed out the SS Great Britain Eastern Hall for our March 2017 Partnership Gathering. This nature-themed event was an opportunity to explore the challenges facing wildlife and our green spaces, share information about the fantastic projects already taking place in Bristol and the West of England, and identify what we can do to ensure nature is protected and celebrated in the years ahead. Short presentations were given by key players from across the city, with an action-oriented breakout session following.
Context and introductions
Ian Barrett, Chief Executive of the Avon Wildlife Trust, opened with an introduction on the state of nature, wildlife and green spaces in Bristol and the wider West of England region; plus the role that the Bristol Green Capital Partnership already plays in bringing organisations and groups together to help address the challenges faced. He outlined some of the opportunities, highlighting that we are in a spectacular part of the world for nature, wildlife and habitats, and that Bristol is one of the greenest cities in the world. But in terms of challenges, we have a lot of work to do to make sure that people from all walks of life are getting a good experience of nature, understand the importance of it and will speak out about the need to protect it. The State of Nature report from last September indicated that we have lost over 400 species in England over the last 200 years - and 15% of species are currently at risk of extinction. Meanwhile 97% of species-rich grassland has been lost since the 1940s.
Ian closed, though, with positive news - wherever we have been working together to reverse decline across the region, it has been working. So how do we work together to continue that process?
This event was only the beginning, and the discussions and feedback will be used in planning future nature-themed events in the coming year. To stay informed about these and other opportunities, sign up as a member of Bristol Green Capital Partnership. If you are already a member, make sure you look out for e-mail communications from us over the coming months.
Presentations on projects in Bristol and the challenges faced
Following Ian's introductions, we had presentations from key players from across the city about some of the great work that is happening in Bristol, but also some of the challenges faced. The links below will direct you to that part of the presentation, recorded on video during the event.
- Fraser Bridgeford of Bristol Parks Forum highlighted some of the lasting positive impact of projects the came out of Bristol's Green Capital Year, 2015 | See the video presentation
- Shelly Dewhurst of the West of England Nature Partnership presented on the crucial role of green infrastructure and how we need to make it a central part of the planning process | See the video presentation
- Sarah Pitt of The Community Farm discussed nature friendly farming and the importance of getting the public to acclimatise to and celebrate nature | See the video presentation
- Adam Kennerley of Severn Vision outlined the opportunity for the Severn Estuary to be a local 'powerhouse' for the region | See the video presentation
- Julie Doherty of Avon Wildlife Trust showed us the sheer scale of nature and wildlife projects happening in Bristol through projects like #mywildcity | See the video presentation
- Ali Plummer of The Wildlife Trusts summarised the possible impacts of Brexit on our natural spaces and environment, and what needs to be done to ensure we don't lose all the protection that is given through EU membership | See the video presentation
Following the presentations, listeners turned into ideas generators as all attendees joined one of ten breakout sessions to discuss different issues and think of key actions that could help create change. These main points are summarised below - or alternatively, click this link to skip straight to the recording of the breakout discussion summary.
1. Volunteering in parks and green spaces
Attendees discussed how to generate a sense of ownership of parks and green spaces, and make volunteering opportunities for those using those spaces relevant to as wide a range of people as possible. The question was raised of how to maintain interest and momentum and ensure regular activity and communication.
Idea for change: Inspired by a scheme in Rwanda, state that the last Saturday of every month is a Volunteering in Parks day.
Action to take: Visit the Bristol Parks Forum webpage and do your best to visit one of your local parks in March. Would you join the call for a Volunteering in Parks day in Bristol?
2. Connecting students with your nature projects
Attendees identified things that need to be better within the universities to make it clearer the range of opportunities and different ways students can engage with organisations and projects, and the timings which students are available.
Idea for change: There are a multitude of volunteering platforms, and it’s difficult for organisations to post on a variety of platforms in order to reach the widest audience. Can we find a way to have a single platform for volunteering available for everyone to use in Bristol?
Action to take: Are you a student wanting to connect to a work or volunteering platform, or an organisation wanting to connect with students? Visit Skills Bridge to find out more.
3. Reaching Mainstream Audiences: Festival of Nature
The Festival of Nature takes place between 8th and 25th June this year. If you've been coming to the Bristol side of the event for many years, consider going to the Keynsham or Bath events to meet new audiences and expand the reach of your organisation/project.
Idea for change/Action to take: Check out the Festival of Nature events taking place through to June this year in Bath and Keynsham and get your organisation there to expand its reach and meet new people.
4. Expanding the green infrastructure network
Attendees discussed the intricate complications of the planning system - there are no easy answers, no easy locations and there are competing priorities across the region. How can we ensure green infrastructure is seen as a genuine consideration when competing with things like schools?
Idea for change: There is a real opportunity with the upcoming Metro Mayor elections. We need to collectively ensure that the natural environment is something the candidates value and consider.
Action to take: Watch this space information about the Bristol Green Capital Partnership's upcoming Metro Mayor Hustings event.
5. Connecting nature, health and wellbeing
Attendees discussed the difficulty of bringing nature into people's lives, particularly those who are immobile or house bound.
Idea for change: Every health centre to have an explicit link to local green spaces and neighbourhood opportunities for health in and with nature (on site and on website); plus better information about nature organisations who are offering health benefits and health projects.
Action to take: Visit the Bristol Walk for Health scheme to help understand one way in which people can be encouraged to connect with nature and health.
6. Growing food with nature
Attendees tried to arrive at a definition of what "growing food with nature" would mean in Bristol, and liked The Community Farm's idea of remembering that we are not the only species trying to make a living from the land. We should open the door to wildlife and create healthier spaces for nature and growing. The most important thing that emerged is the need for this to be about participation. What makes projects work is getting people on the land.
Idea for change: Pull together a simple resource pack of key contacts - experts on various land features and species - which can be shared across various groups. It would also be good to work on extending wildlife corridors so not just for pretty plants, but edibles too.
7. Diversity in nature: Black2Nature & Green & Black Ambassadors
Attendees discussed that one of the most important things to encourage diversity in the green sector is for there to be role models that people can relate to. Seeing people that look like themselves in roles in green organisations will help people feel that they too can be part of those organisations.
Idea for change: Everyone should go back to their organisations and make diversity a core value.
Action to take: For inspiration, read a summary of the first race equality in nature conference held at Bristol Zoo earlier this year. More information about the Green & Black Ambassadors scheme in general visit this page and the Twitter account.
8. Can Bristol lead the refill revolution?
Attendees discussed the great success in the UK with the plastic bag charge, and how this can be replicated with other ideas for change.
Idea for change: A campaign getting coffee shops and cafes to say "do you need a mug?" when you order coffee. Designing everyday products for a refillable life such as cups that are easier to clean and don't leak inside your bag, a "Bristol Bag" designed with compartments to put various re-usable items, and a "Bristol Box" for street food.
Action to take: Download and use the refill app for whenever you refill your water.
9. Severn Vision: Unlocking the potential of the estuary
Attendees discussed the Severn Vision presentation in depth and the key issue that emerged was how to get the public to love the mud!
Idea for change: Positioning the estuary so it's not just the powerhouse for Bristol's energy but also serves it's society and economy.
Action to take: The Severn Vision project is still in a consultative phase. Have your say on the future of the estuary by filling out their survey.
10. How do we mobilise support for nature?
Attendees discussed the importance of maximising the audience of all membership organisations. Whether it's 10 people or 100,000 people, everyone who signs up has an interest in nature. We need to understand the different viewpoints of those people and approach them with their language and interest. We need to get those people to 'feel' and 'speak' to the challenges faced, and offer a combination of practical and virtual actions that enable us to reach outside of the usual suspects.
Idea for change: Nature champions! We need role models - people who can stand up and push the agenda.