New research by the RSPB shows there is huge public support for putting nature at the heart of Coronavirus recovery plans. In this post, Emma Marsh, director of RSPB, reports that increasing access to nature and natural greenspace is essential to building a more equitable and environmentally resilient society. Published first at Wildlife and Countryside link
In May the RSPB commissioned a YouGov survey asking people how important nature has been to them during the Coronavirus crisis. We asked what nature had meant to them, and what role they think it should play in the recovery of our communities and economy.
The results are both striking and heartening. Regardless of age, social class or income, adults in England:
Recognised the positive effect connecting with nature has had on their health and wellbeing during the crisis.
74% of respondents in England agreed that they had noticed more nature in their neighbourhoods since the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK than they would normally at this time of year.
Overwhelmingly supported investing in nature in our recovery from the Coronavirus crisis.
76% supported the suggestion that nature could contribute to economic recovery in the UK (e.g. by reducing the risk of other economic challenges such as flooding, protecting water supplies, promoting local tourism etc.).
Opposed Government reducing spending on or putting less emphasis on protecting nature.
81% agreed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has shown the importance of protecting and restoring nature, with only 10% disagreeing.
See access to nature is important for health and wellbeing during the crisis.
76% agreed that nature has been an important source of comfort/relief for them.
Support an increase in accessible nature-rich areas.
84% support the suggestion that Government should increase the number of accessible nature-rich areas in the UK.
These results are hugely significant. They not only show that nature has been important for maintaining people’s health and wellbeing during lockdown, but that there is widespread recognition of the valuable role it can play as we look to rebuild our economy.
Nature underpins so much of what sustains us and provides huge benefits for society. From the water we drink and the food we eat, to flood protection, carbon-storage, recreation and tourism – nature gives this for free and helps create jobs and support economic activity.
Unfortunately, the survey also shows that access to nature and its many benefits isn’t equal for everybody.
In the UK, people living in households with an annual income under £10,000 are 3.6 times more likely to have no outdoor space where they live, and about 40% less likely to live within a 10-minute walk of any publicly accessible natural greenspace, than people with a household income of £60,000 or more.
This last finding underlines the fact that access to nature and natural greenspace is something that goes right to the heart of the wealth gap in the UK, suggesting wealth is the best predictor of people’s access to natural greenspace and opportunities to spend time in nature – and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits this brings.
Increasing access to nature and natural greenspace is essential to building a more equitable and environmentally resilient society.
Meanwhile, in Westminster…
Strategies for kick-starting the economy in the wake of Coronavirus are top of the agenda. Much of the talk has been about directing investment towards big infrastructure projects, while Government is also exploring reforms to the planning system to increase the rate of housebuilding.
This could be disastrous for nature and the environment, and for people’s access to natural greenspace, if they fail to build in requirements for all new housing and infrastructure to protect and restore nature, and meet the highest environmental standards.
These are some of the things we are asking Government to put in law through the new Environment Bill.
Write to your MP to ask them to strengthen legislation to protect and restore nature through the Environment Bill.
Not to mention the need for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to “seize the day” and create a national nature service to restore wildlife and habitats in England which would create thousands of jobs, a more resilient country and tackle the wildlife and climate crises. We’re part of a coalition calling for the country to #growbackbetter.
Emma Marsh, Director at RSPB