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Society needs nature. A healthy, accessible natural environment is essential to health, well-being and thriving communities.But it’s not a one-way street: nature needs a big society

We are a nation of nature lovers. There are more than nine million members of the main nature conservation charities. Over half of all adults get out into the natural environment every week. But, despite such passion, many species and their habitats are under grave threat.

The Government’s White Paper on the natural environment harnesses our love of nature, and use our enthusiasm to halt and reverse the alarming decline in flora and fauna.

In England, more than two animals and plants are becoming extinct each year. Nearly 1,000 other species are under severe threat from pollution, development, poor land management, invasive species and climate change.

The National Ecosystems Assessment, published in June, gave us a measure of the UK’s “natural capital”. It told us that 30 percent of nature’s goods and services – ‘ecosystems services’ - are in decline.

Nature is not only important for health and well-being. it’s also the backbone of our economy. It provides the raw materials for pretty much all our goods and services, including the absolute essentials: energy for heat and light; soil and pollinating insects for food; natural filtering systems to keep water and air clean for our use.

The White Paper explains how we will be connecting people with the natural environment and spreading an understanding of our dependency on it.

We want children to get out into the natural world. It’s good for their health and it helps them to learn. So we’ll be removing the barriers to schools taking children on school trips and teaching them outdoors.

In urban areas, poorer people are far less likely to have access to green space. We want this to change, and we want to help local authorities and developers to give everyone equal access to green spaces and all the benefits they bring.

And we want to give communities the power to protect the green spaces they care about, and to create new ones.

So far our approach to nature conservation has been piecemeal: to designate certain areas and help them flourish, ignoring the bits in between. Instead we need to adopt a ‘landscape scale’ approach, helping these islands of nature to join up with each other.  We want to help councils, businesses and civil society work in partnership to protect and enhance nature on a scale that ignores administrative and other manmade boundaries.

The UK’s conservation charities are a national asset. If it wasn’t for these charities and their members our natural environment would be in a much sorrier state. We want more people to get involved in nature conservation work, whether it’s through the big charities or with local groups.

In the last 12 months the UK Government has invested hundreds of millions in carbon capture and storage pilots and off shore wind; and introduced a new green deal to help insulate millions of homes in Britain. We’ve created the first bank dedicated to the greening of our economy. We’ve set an ambitious target of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% before 2027. And we’ve played a key role in getting the world back on track towards a binding deal on cutting carbon emissions.

But to fulfill our pledge to be the greenest government ever we must look beyond carbon and energy, and to set about protecting and enhancing the natural environment. We need to instil nature’s value in our economy, our business activity and the decision-making we make in Government. We need to put nature in its rightful place: at the heart of everything we do.

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Written by Richard Benyon   
Friday, 01 July 2011 11:56
Last Updated on Friday, 01 July 2011 10:57

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