Vikki Patton

May 28, 2020

World Environment Day - 5 June: Why celebrate nature?

This year, World Environment Day is all about celebrating biodiversity: it’s time for nature. What better time to celebrate biodiversity than during this pandemic when so many of us have benefitted from its stress-relieving benefits.

From walks in local parks and river walkways to enjoying gardens and the beauty of our greenspaces, nature has helped us cope. At the same time, more wildlife is venturing into our towns and cities, now quiet due to lockdown. We’re reading stories of mountain goats in Welsh streets, pumas in Chile’s capital city and birds now fishing in the Venetian canals as fish become more visible thanks to clearer waters. This period has brought a focus on nature, with increasing discussion on our need for a sustainable recovery, post-COVID, which enhances rather than depletes our natural environment.
Biodiversity is essential to life
Biodiversity is the variety of species, habitats and ecosystems on our planet. We’re intrinsically linked it and the services it provides are critical for our survival. To list just a few, it provides clean, breathable air, it pollinates our crops, it inspires our medicines, it provides our fuel, and, when left in balance, it regulates disease processes. Our health and mental wellbeing improve when we spend time in nature. With an increasing number of studies highlighting resulting reduced blood pressure, improved mood and enhanced immune function, it’s no wonder that doctors are beginning to prescribe time in nature, known as ecotherapy, to their patients. Nature has provided these valuable services for eons, but it now hangs in the balance.
A world in crisis
Our planet’s biodiversity is declining at a rapid rate; hand-in-hand with our climate crisis, we are in a biodiversity crisis. We are at the start of the sixth mass extinction event: scientific studies have determined that in just over 40 years we have seen an almost 60% decline in the size of global populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. We have countless targets, strategies and policies in countries across the world, including the overarching Aichi biodiversity targets and the Sustainable Development Goals, and yet, despite these, the extreme losses continue. The World Economic Forum this year rated biodiversity loss among the top 5 global economic risks in terms of the impact it will have on humanity over the coming decade. As new global biodiversity targets for 2030 are set this year, it begs the question: what we can do differently to get on track and meet the targets that will ensure our survival?
We have the solutions
As sobering as the situation is, there is cause to be optimistic. We have solutions. We have a wealth of global expertise in how to best restore and enhance biodiversity, there are practitioners far and wide focussed on the varying aspects of building back our nature, and implementation of these natural solutions gives us case studies from across the world that we can learn from.
Biodiversity net gain
Biodiversity net gain is one such solution currently in practice in over 100 countries. It’s a process that assesses the change in biodiversity with the aim of ensuring development leaves nature in a better state than before. With levels of global development set to increase, associated losses of biodiversity are inevitable unless we set net gain as a legal requirement for development, and indeed any land-use change, including forestry and agriculture. It has been proven to yield positive results for nature, along with a strong business case for its application, so much so that developers are voluntarily committing to it.
Nature-based solutions
Designing for biodiversity can support climate change mitigation and disaster-risk reduction, for example, through provision of appropriate planting to increase carbon storage or increased water catchment capacity to reduce flooding. Similarly, more local issues such as reducing urban heat island effects or improving health and wellbeing can be tackled via green walls and street trees, and access to more biodiverse green infrastructure and natural parks. There are innumerable opportunities to improve biodiversity of natural spaces throughout the world, while at the same time providing the added benefit of nature-based solutions.
Our lifeline
Biodiversity loss is a critical issue as it really is our lifeline. It’s essential that we sharpen the focus globally in order to mainstream biodiversity into everything we do. We know the solutions; it’s time to work collaboratively to implement them. It’s time for nature.

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  • Vikki Patton

    Senior Managing Consultant

    +44 7870 361417