Emma Clarke, Policy and Information Coordinator at Wildlife and Countryside Link tells us about the importance of connecting people and nature and why Wildlife and Countryside Link is campaigning on this issue.
I, like many others, did countless laps of my local park during the first lockdown in 2020. I plodded along the paths winding up and down the hills, across the playing fields and through the trees, listening to a podcast or perhaps calling a friend, enjoying the air and the exercise. As the days went by and slowly became warmer, I began to take more notice of the budding trees and bird song. I started unplugging my headphones and looking up and appreciating the ever-changing details of the trees, ponds and wildlife in the park.
This spring, I am remembering these moments of appreciation and enjoyment as I learn more about how nature affects people. Spending time in nature improves our physical health as well our mental health and wellbeing. Natural spaces that are abundant in wildlife, where you can hear bird or frog sounds or smell the wildflowers, has particularly strong positive benefits for mental wellbeing. Connecting with nature through the senses, through appreciating its beauty and meaning, and by finding happiness and wonder in nature, also leads to positive environmental behaviours. People who are more connected to nature do more to protect it.
However, the pandemic also highlighted the immense disparities in access to a healthy natural environment. 1 in 3 people in England do not have access to nature within a 15 minute walk of home. The inequalities in access to nature are even starker for people on low incomes and diverse communities: almost 40% of people of BAME backgrounds live in England’s most green space-deprived neighbourhoods, compared to 14% of white people.
Improving access to nature for all people is essential for both people’s wellbeing and nature’s wellbeing. This is the aim of a new campaign launched by Wildlife and Countryside Link with a coalition of 80+ organisations from across the nature, access, planning and health sectors. The Nature for Everyone campaign is calling for Government to provide equitable access to wildlife-rich spaces for all.
By protecting and improving existing wildlife and habitats, creating more nature everywhere, but especially in greenspace-deprived areas, and tackling barriers to people’s access and enjoyment of nature, there are many ways to ‘level up’ access to nature so that everyone can enjoy nature’s benefits.
The Nature for Everyone campaign is calling for access to nature to be a metric of success for the Government’s Levelling Up agenda and for new duties in the forthcoming Levelling Up Bill for developers and public bodies to provide access to nature. Supported by sufficient funding and resources, these changes can help provide equitable access to nature for the benefit of people and nature.
Join the Nature for Everyone campaign in calling for levelling up access to nature for everyone by signing the petition today.
By Emma Clarke, Policy and Information Coordinator at Wildlife and Countryside Link
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