Act for Nature: Calls for new law to support
recovery of nature and improve people’s wellbeing
Charities are today challenging political parties to ‘act for nature’ by introducing new laws to restore nature and increase everyone’s access to it, not only for nature’s sake but also for the contribution it makes to people’s health and wellbeing.
The ‘Nature and Wellbeing Act’ Green Paper – published today – sets out compelling evidence which shows just how much people need nature. It offers an ambitious package of measures to turn around the decline in our natural environment and contribute to many of our most pressing social and political objectives.
The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB warn that the health of our economy and communities, education and our own wellbeing are inextricably linked to the health of the natural world and our quality of life will fail if society doesn’t take action for nature.
The charities have joined forces to launch a campaign called Act for Nature, working together as part of a growing movement of people and organisations who wish to see the natural environment recognised for its true value and contribution to our lives.
The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB – which together have more than two million members who want to protect nature – are calling for cross-party agreement on the need for nature and press all parties to include legislation for nature and wellbeing in their manifestos ahead of the General Election in May.
The General Election means political parties are now painting their visions for a brighter future, providing an opportunity for people to ask politicians to recognise how nature is intrinsically at the heart of better places to live in towns and cities as well as across rural landscapes. Ensuring nature thrives and plays a part on all of our lives means decisions must not be based on short-term expediency.
Inactivity and obesity are escalating; poor mental health is having a significant impact on wellbeing; climate change is already affecting our urban areas and the productivity of our countryside; many of our villages, towns and cities face growing risk of flooding; and our economy continues to use much of the natural world in an unsustainable way, which is likely to be a brake on progress and development in the future.
The Green Paper shows our need for nature in every part of our lives:
· The most deprived communities are 10 times less likely to live in the greenest areas.
· Fewer than one in 10 children regularly play in wild places, compared to almost half, a generation ago.
· If every household in England were provided with good access to quality green space it could save an estimated £2.1 billion in health care costs.
A new Nature and Wellbeing Act should herald a wider long-term commitment by government to take consistent account of nature and the wider environment across all policy-making and legislation.
Dr Tony Juniper, author and campaigner, said: “For too long we’ve become used to seeing nature as a ‘nice to have’, a luxury we can afford in the good times. Even worse we have recently been told that looking after nature gets in the way of growth and competitiveness. All this is plain wrong. Nature is neither an optional extra nor a barrier to development. Healthy nature is a vital prerequisite for our long term health, wealth and security. That is why we need a new Act of Parliament, to help reverse historical trends and to restore nature in a generation.
“I warmly welcome this campaign from The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB and will be backing it every step of the way and until we get the new laws we need.”
Peter Young, Chair of the Aldersgate Group and trustee of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “There is new overwhelming evidence for the value that nature can bring to our health and wellbeing, as well as underpinning our economy. But it is not yet front of mind. This Green Paper brings this evidence to the fore to show that the time is ripe for an ambitious and integrated approach to new nature legislation. It is time to start the long road to recovery of our natural capital, and stop threatening our future physical and economic health through its neglect. Nature’s deficit is huge, a repayment plan needs to start now. This call for a new Nature and Wellbeing Act is therefore timely. Creation of nature, not its destruction, should be the future by-product of good business activity.”
Steve Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ Director, England, said: “The green paper provides powerful and irresistible arguments for why we need urgent change. If we look after the natural environment, it will look after us and it can help solve some of society’s most expensive problems. We need new and visionary legislation to underpin the needs of 21st century society in building a better relationship with nature – for people and wildlife. It’s vital that we have a joined-up and scaled-up approach for the recovery of wildlife and wild places – and to bring nature into everyone’s everyday lives.”
Martin Harper, Conservation Director for the RSPB, said: “We know that nature is good for us but we also know that nature is in trouble and that our children rarely play in natural places. In this Green Paper, we demonstrate that our national wealth and our national health depend on action to protect nature, and so do many of our most wonderful species and habitats. That’s why the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are challenging all political parties to introduce a Nature and Wellbeing Act in the next Parliament—only by valuing, protecting and connecting people with our natural world will government achieve its social and economic plans.”
From Wed 29 Oct 2014, A Nature and Wellbeing Act’ Green Paper can be downloaded from The Wildlife Trusts’ (wildlifetrusts.org/actfornature) and RSPB’s websites (rspb.org.uk/actfornature). Every Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in England will receive a briefing document, which can be downloaded from the links provided above.
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