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Why we should put nature at the heart of the General Election

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Thursday 18th May 2017 by bbowtblog

Early bumblebee by Jon Hawkins/Surrey Hills PhotographyEarly bumblebee by Jon Hawkins/Surrey Hills Photography

Tom Beckett, BBOWT's Director of External Affairs, asks why should wildlife care about the General Election?

Tom Beckett

Written by Tom Beckett, BBOWT's Director of External Affairs

Does wildlife care who we choose?

Hares are out once again boxing in the fields, the blackbirds have been busy collecting their nest material and our meadows are beginning to flower. They are oblivious to the turmoil in the human world!

Like many species that are looking for a mate, we are busy trying to pick an MP who will fight for what we want. 

What will matter is that we elect someone who will care for us as well as wildlife. The reason? Over the last few years the link between our wellbeing and the wellbeing of wildlife has been made very clear.

The phenomenal rise in obesity has been estimated to cost to the NHS £5.1 billion a year1 and the cost of mental health to society is now at least £105.2 billion2.

When there is evidence telling us that easy access to nature means we are 40% less likely to become overweight or obese3 and it improves our mental health4, we have to realise that looking after nature is good for our economy and society.

One recent study found that people are less prone to mental illness if they hear more birdsong. Another found that we are more mindful in spaces rich in wildlife, helping increase our sense of wellbeing. So perhaps wildlife should not have to care about the election, but voters and candidates should care about it.

A thriving society is essentially underpinned by a diverse and productive natural environment. Soon we will be eating British strawberries, beans, apples, pears, blackberries and are fields are beginning to turn yellow with flowering rapeseed, which will provide us vegetable oil.

If nature is ignored then it will be not be financially viable to produce crops like these as there will be fewer butterflies, bees and other insects to pollinate them. In some areas of China pollination of apple trees is being done by hand. The alternative is to hire in pollinators - in areas of America this is being done at great expensive. Indeed, insect pollinators in the UK have been valued at £400 million per annum5.

The regulation around the use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides will be what these pollinators care about, as well as a diverse countryside which supports all their needs. We have lost 97% of flower-rich meadows since the 1930s and in the twentieth century two species of bee have become extinct, and wild bee populations are in decline.

Our bees, butterflies and other pollinators are clearly in trouble because there are fewer places to feed and breed. The constant pressure on financial efficiency overlooks the ‘free’ benefits of a thriving natural world. Our politicians need to understand not just the aesthetic benefits of nature that improve our wellbeing, but also the financial benefits, and ideologically politicians need to support the environment – that’s who our bees, hares, foxes, badgers, butterflies and blackbirds would be voting for!

At BBOWT we have set up a webpage to help you vote for nature. This election is an important one because of the impact of leaving the EU. What we really want is politicians who care for the environment and are willing sign a pledge for the environment. The largest environment NGOs in the country, together representing more than 12 million people in the UK, are calling for politicians to sign this pledge because worry is widespread across our movement.

What you can do is ask the questions to the politicians who knock on your door, you can question them at hustings and you can review their literature to see if they mention the environment. Hopefully you will help elect politicians who will fight for wildlife as this will be the means to leaving a world for your children and grandchildren to thrive in!

Event in Oxford to put nature at the heart of the General Election

On Friday 26 May we are holding a gathering on Port Meadow, Oxford, to create a heart-shaped human chain to enable people to show their love for nature. Come and join in the fun!

References

1. Estimates for UK in 2014/15 are based on: Scarborough, P. (2011) The economic burden of ill health due to diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and obesity in the UK: an update to 2006–07 NHS costs. Journal of Public Health. May 2011, 1-9. Uplifted to take into account inflation. No adjustment has been made for slight changes in overweight and obesity rates over this period. It’s been assumed England costs account for around 85% of UK costs
2. http://www.ohrn.nhs.uk/resource/policy/EconomicandSocialcostofMI.pdf
3. Wells et al 2007, Bowler et al., 2010
4. Feldman et al, 2017, Nef, 2008, Williams, 2010, Chu, 2010, Keng et al 2011, Howell et al, 2011
5. https://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/why-bees-need-help/

 

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