Embracing the green – considering land use & nature

Since my childhood I have taken a keen interest in nature and the world around me. We used to go on family walks in local woods and fields and I would take delight in recording the names of the birds, butterflies and flowers that we had seen. We had a small vegetable garden in which I would spend endless hours getting grubby helping to plant and harvest or just watch a trail of ants as they toiled up and down the bean plants harvesting sweet liquid from the aphids that they were farming in their garden. I took it for granted that all that natural diversity and beauty would always be there and that everyone had as intimate a relationship with it as I did. As a parent I have travelled the same path with my children, sharing with them the delights of the nature around us and the pleasure of growing our own food. And yet the path is not as  rich in diversity as it once was; the erosion has been so slow and subtle that it is easy to be deceived. It is only when you listen to those from older generations sharing their stories of the abundance of nature and you look back at the records that have been kept that you are unblinded and notice how diminished our world has become.

We share Earth with the living world – the most remarkable life-support system imaginable, constructed over billions of years. The planet’s stability has wavered just as its biodiversity has declined – the two things are bound together. To restore stability to our planet, therefore, we must restore its biodiversity, the very thing we have removed. It is the only way out of this crisis that we ourselves have created. We must re-wild the world.

David Attenborough – A Life on Our Planet

This shifting of baselines is compounded by the increasing number of people who live their entire lives in an urban environment and have, through no fault of their own, become so disconnected from the natural world that they have no mental baseline from which to even make a comparison. The green path on our Climate Journey is tightly interwoven with the others, the health of the land, the abundance and diversity of the species which inhabit it are critical to maintaining the healthy balance our planet needs to sustain life. We urgently need to re-connect with and grow the green as well as reducing the black and grey. Each of us has a different relationship with the natural world by dint of where we live and how we source our food. Our opportunities to embrace the green path on our Climate Journey are in fact very similar, the difference is in the amount of help we may need to guide the way.

Although I have always had a strong relationship with the natural word around me it is not until recently that I have become more aware of how I can improve it further. Planting trees and growing plants is a good thing, protecting our existing established woodlands and habitats is even better. I have consistently supported charities like the Woodland Trust and the Wildlife Trusts who do essential work in this area. I have now come to recognise that the very habitats and species I seek to preserve are under threat because of some of the life choices I have made; most of these relate to food.

In the UK a large proportion of our food is imported and details of the conditions under which it is grown (or reared) can be hard to find. I have always been conscious of animal welfare and took care to make careful choices about where my meat came from. In 2019, when I adjusted my diet to a more plant based one I started to pay more attention to where all of my food comes from and how it is grown. I have tried to buy more local produce and increase the amount I grow myself. I have been careful about which brands of plant based proteins I buy and how sustainably things like soya have been sourced. Sadly this requires more than a casual glance at the packaging to determine but some brands are getting better at sharing this kind of information.

It was only in 2020, when I started to read more widely about our food system that I realised the full impact that agricultural methods have on our environment. Whilst I have tried to avoid pesticides in my own garden it is clear that their ubiquitous use has had a huge impact on our bee and wider insect population globally. I have until recently used artificial fertiliser until I became aware that it’s use leads to water pollution and formation of nitrous oxide gas which is a significant contributor to global warming. Only now do I realise that I should buy not just local but also organically grown produce. The next steps on my Climate Journey will be directed towards changing my growing and food shopping habits to further enhance the green on my path towards a more sustainable way of living.

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