Daniel Cope, Ambassador for the Environment
One only has to look at the social and political issues of recent years (globally, and domestically) to see how entrenched we are in the habits of our daily lives, and the collective stubbornness of our species. Yet these challenges pale in comparison to those of climate change; requiring life-changing responses in a fleeting amount of time.
It’s important to recognise however, that we also have an uncanny ability to create opportunities from the threats we face; often the greater the threat, the greater the opportunities born from it. The creation of the NHS in 1948 was (in part) due to a post-war recovery plan, recognising a need to serve high numbers of potential casualties. COVID-19 too has threatened our day-to-day lives, work, interactions, and most importantly, health. As part of our recovery, it is therefore essential we grasp the opportunities created during the pandemic.
1. Falling in love with nature
At all ages, the public has rediscovered nature. Many eyes have been opened to what was always around us. A Natural England ‘People and Nature’ survey last year found 87% agreed ‘being in nature makes me happy’ and 89% believed it helps mental health and wellbeing. It’s imperative that when life returns to ‘normal’ we must retain this awareness of the amazing natural-assets that surround us. Remember, leave everything as you found it, just take the memories, photos and litter home with you.
Benefits of nature go far beyond mental wellbeing; improving physical health as well as reducing pollutants and soil erosion. On the Government’s part, they must prioritise and protect these areas, whilst also providing high levels of green spaces in urbanised areas.
2. An uplift in social values
Whether bridging the gaps to our more vulnerable members of the community, or the surge in local stewardship, the public have demonstrated an abundance of care. We only have to look at some of the social programmes supported by Heart of Bucks in recent months; the Winter Warmth scheme (helping those in need with heating bills) or the exceptional work of Chiltern Rangers (developing local community projects with an environmental focus), come to mind. This level of care is equally reflected at an individual level; be it checking in on our neighbours, or the army of volunteers helping with vaccine rollouts.
Of course, no one is under any illusions of a new utopia; people are still suffering, personal debts are rising, many are in dire circumstances, and their plights may well get worse before they get better. Still, it does shine a light on our collective compassion, coming out better than we went in. Social and environmental equality come hand-in-hand; those who face the greatest social inequality will also face the strongest effects of climate change.
3. Reduction of harmful emissions
Last year saw a 13% reduction of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) from 2019 in the UK, a win for the plants, but a sad reflection of the lack of business activity, and with it, people’s livelihoods. Globally, road transport reduced by 10%, and aviation by a staggering 40%. As a result, particles of soot, metal and rubber from vehicles (all of which are breathed in), have reduced in tandem. Much like COVID-19, air pollution can’t be seen, and causes significant loss of life.
There’s no doubt that emissions will rise again after recovery, but the level of impact is within our control. Transforming how we do business is essential; leaps have been taken in technological communication in the past 12-months, and Zoom-aphobia (to the most part) has dissipated. One-hour per day was spent on average commuting in 2019, now freeing up time for a daily walk…I know which I would rather! At an individual level, we must recognise the impacts we have on the environment. Shopping local (where possible) and reducing food waste are good places to start.
The effort and ingenuity required to save the planet will be unlike anything that has come before us. Even the heart-wrenching deaths caused by COVID-19 will be dwarfed by those resulting from the effects of climate change. We must recognise opportunities before us; ensuring our actions and behaviours continue to highlight the importance of community, and how we are connected to the greater environment.
I’m both proud and honoured to represent Heart of Bucks as Ambassador for Climate Change and the Environment. The charity has already supported such brilliant environmental projects, supporting Buckinghamshire’s natural resources, whilst helping our more vulnerable members of society with energy costs. I jump at any opportunity to talk about all green, so feel free to drop me a message on LinkedIn!