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The Ecological Emergency – A call to action

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On 4 February Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, declared an ecological emergency. This follows 2018’s declaration of a climate emergency and ambition for the city to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Following on from the climate emergency primer we shared in August, we have produced a summary to encourage organisations to recognise and respond to the ecological crisis.

A newly released 2020 Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five threats humanity will face in the next five years. [1]

Mayor Rees was joined at full cabinet by representatives from North Bristol Trust, UWE Bristol, Bristol Zoological Society, We The Curious, SS Great Britain Trust and Bristol North Somerset & South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group sharing statements of support and details of their activity to raise awareness and reverse wildlife decline. The Mayor’s announcement comes in light of stark facts that show:

  • Our environment has changed significantly Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about two thirds of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. [2]
  • The effects have been global 60% of the world’s wild animals have been lost since 1970. And 83% of the wildlife in freshwater rivers and lakes. [3]
  • But also felt here at home Bristol has suffered catastrophic declines, including in much-loved and once-common species such as swifts and starlings. Counts of these species fell by 96% between 1994 and 2014 in the West of England region and local counts of linnets declined by 80% in the same period.[4]
  • Nature has been adversely affected by human activity Industrial agriculture, land conversion, hunting, pollution and pesticides are the primary drivers of wildlife decline – and climate change is beginning to play a significant role.
  • These changes threaten our health, prosperity and security 75% of human grown crops require pollination by insects, whose populations are in rapid decline. In the UK, populations of butterflies fell by 46% between 1976 and 2017, and 23 bee and flower-visiting wasps have gone extinct since 1850.[5] This poses a huge threat to the global food supply.
  • And many species are facing extinction One in eight bird species is threatened with global extinction [6] and 41% of insects. 20-30% of the species on Earth may be at risk of extinction if we see 1.5°C warming on average [7]

For many organisations across Bristol, planning for the transition to a low carbon economy is now underway and so the timing of this announcement presents a crucial opportunity to address both the climate crisis and ecological emergency in a coordinated effort. The One City Environmental Sustainability Board will work with the council and other city partners on a plan setting out the actions that the council and partners will take to support and add to the existing initiatives which are already taking place.

Starling, Photo by: pexels

Ian Barrett (CEO of Avon Wildlife Trust) and Manu Maunganidze (Project Director – Nature Youth Connection and Education CIC), both Directors of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, call on organisations of every size and sector to take steps to reverse this decline, reviving wildlife and biodiversity – both locally and globally – to create a wilder and more sustainable future for our city and its people.

Ian says, “The twin threats facing our natural world and our own lives – the climate crisis and ecological emergency – are now felt everywhere including in Bristol as we witness dwindling wildlife and the loss of wild spaces. We can’t wait for national governments or international bodies to lead the way – we have to show that through collective action we can make Bristol a city where wildlife can thrive, and the natural world can flourish.

This is about stopping the loss forever of much-loved species which were once common in gardens, parks, waterside and green spaces across the city – swifts, starlings, hedgehogs and butterflies. But it’s about more than that, because we face losing all that wildlife abundance and a thriving natural world provides us with – clean air, clean water, healthy soils, food crops, natural flood defences and beautiful spaces to enjoy. All of us – from individuals to large city organisations – can now take action and – from planting a single window box for pollinators, to a whole workforce effort for nature – all actions are transformational.”

Contact with nature also has huge potential to support mental health and wellbeing and engage people in environmental issues.

Manu says, “The benefits of nature connection in young people and adults are becoming better understood and valued. It is important that we begin to place greater value on the green spaces we have, make them more accessible to people from diverse backgrounds, so that the whole community can benefit from them and fight for their protection. Education will be key to keeping and restoring the biodiversity of Bristol and surrounding areas. The more connected young people are to nature and the better they understand it, the more likely they will be to become tomorrow’s champions for the natural environment.”

Mya-Rose Craig (aka Birdgirl), 17-year-old birder, conservationist and activist says, “I have been birding forever but was shocked to recently find out that starling used to be a common garden bird, as I have never seen them in our garden, with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch showing an appalling 80% decline of starling in 40 years.”

Further information

Bristol City Council News: Bristol the first major city to declare an ecological emergency

Guide: Responding to the ecological emergency: An opportunity for to take action and communicate

UWE Bristol Declares a Climate & Ecological Emergency

Why Bristol Zoological Society supports the declaration of an ecological emergency

Environmental bodies set joint vision to tackle climate and biodiversity emergencies

Nature Youth Connection and Education

Mya-Rose Craig’s ‘Birdgirl’ Blog

References

[1] https://www.weforum.org/reports/nature-risk-rising-why-the-crisis-engulfing-nature-matters-for-business-and-the-economy

[2] https://ipbes.net/global assessment report biodiversity ecosystem services

[3] https://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/living-planet-report-2018

[4] Data from https://bristolnats.org.uk/

[5] https://www.somersetwildlife.org/sites/default/files/2019 11/FULL%20AFI%20REPORT%20WEB1_1.pdf

[6] https://www.birdlife.org/sites/default/files/attachments/BL_ReportENG_V11_spreads.pdf 

[7] https:///www.ipcc.ch/sr15/resources/headline statements

 

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