To fight climate change, the UK must rewild, state wildlife campaigners

There are many ways in which we, as a country, can go about reducing our carbon emissions to net zero, and in our humble opinion, we should be pursuing all of them. Yet, there is one method that has the ability to captivate the heart and mind more than any other, as it is based around the idea that we should return our green spaces to their most natural selves. This idea is known as ‘rewilding’.

In a new report, named ‘Rewilding and Climate Breakdown: How Restoring Nature can help Decarbonise the UK‘, published by UK-based environmental group Rewilding Britain, it states that to make a significant impact in reducing our net carbon emissions, we need to rewild at least 25% of our landscape. The plan sets its aims at targeting the subsidies that farming communities receive, arguing that they should be redirected onto efforts that support the restoration of wild areas such as peat bogs and marshes, and creating new ones such as biodiverse forests and meadows.

“Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems where nature can take care of itself.” The Rewilding Britain page states. “It seeks to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species – allowing them to shape the landscape and the habitats within.”

 

Last year, £3.1billion was spent on agricultural subsidies, with £400million, around 13%, going towards agri-environmental projects. The report by Rewilding Britain suggests that spending on these projects should increase to £1.9billion, which would support the sequestration of an estimated 47.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

The amount would be made up of “25.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year in new native woodlands, 7.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year in species-rich grasslands and 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year in peatlands and heaths.” These figures add up to just over a tenth of the current UK CO2 emissions. This is an incredibly large portion, and it’s benefits would not be confined to carbon sequestration. Rewilding large amounts of land has the chance of improving air quality, and greatly improving levels of biodiversity. 

Rewilding Britain’s report calls for three changes to the UK government’s environmental policies:

  1. Integrate carbon sequestration into any new ‘public money for public goods’ mechanisms to incentivise large-scale natural climate solutions.
  2. Establish a mandatory economy-wide carbon pricing mechanism linked to carbon emissions to raise dedicated revenue to help fund natural climate solutions.
  3. Support locally-led partnerships to coordinate action across landholdings to ensure natural climate solutions are designed and brokered locally within each ecological, economic and cultural context.

It also takes aim at rewilding and restoring four key environments that call Britain a home; peatland, woodland, wetland, and marine. The report includes statistics on how much land is used for non-necessities, such as 270,000 hectares being used for golf courses, 1,344,000 hectares used for grouse shooting moors, and 1,830,000 hectares used for deer stalking estates.

The report comes in conjunction with the ratifying of a petition calling to rewild large amounts of Britain, which will now be debated in parliament after it received 100,000 signatures. The petition called for a “bold financial and political commitment to nature’s recovery”

The report goes on to suggest an initial yearly payment for each type of environment, such as £512 per hectare per year for woodland, which would go towards “old-growth native forests in order to remove any perverse incentive to deforest”, allowing the management of said areas to be undertaken more successfully.

Unfortunately, Britain happens to be the ‘slowest and most reluctant of any European nation to begin rewilding the land and reintroducing its missing species’, writes George Monbiot.

Perhaps this is connected to the fact that we have one of the highest concentrations of land ownership in the world. Large landowners, who are often (though not universally) hostile towards any animals that might compete with or prey upon the animals they hunt, and often deeply suspicious of proposed changes to the way they manage their estates, are peculiarly powerful her. Though they and their views then dot belong to very small minority, they dominate rural policy, and little can be done without their agreement.

In a response to the petition, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated that “Our manifesto committed to planting 11 million trees by 2022, and in addition a further million trees in our towns and cities, and we also have a long-term aspiration to increase woodland cover from 10 per cent to 12 per cent by 2060,”. This is part of the government’s 25-year environment plan that was launched in January last year.

For further reading on rewilding, Deeply Good recommends investing in a copy of George Monbiot’s Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea, and Human Life, in which he puts forward the case for Rewilding in a very informative and emotive way.

We will be releasing an in-depth look into the Rewilding Britain report, so stay tuned.

School Climate Strike: Why we need the youth to protest

On Friday, schools across the UK noted a significant drop in pupil numbers. Those pupils were out on the streets protesting against the ineffectual governmental action on climate change.

When Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, said it was “time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth”, she couldn’t have been more correct. To see the youth of this country understand the issue and the drastic action needed to be taken better than those in charge, is both inspiring and shocking.

With at least 60 protests occurring from Glasgow to London, it is estimated that more than 10,000 pupils left their scheduled lessons to protest against the mounting ecological crisis, with some even being threatened with punishments of detention and suspension.

“The size of the Youth Strike 4 Climate is testament to the passion and awareness among young people that we need to fight for a future that simply doesn’t exist because we’ve been betrayed by the inaction of those in positions of power.” said Jake Woodier, a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition.

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A protest held in Edinburgh on Friday. Credit: Fiona Mansfield

“Joining so many school children for the last Friday For Future School strike was very emotional.” said student and environmental activist Jo Becker, who attended one of the strikes in Edinburgh on Friday. ” Seeing these kids out of school to ask for a future made my heart ache. But also it was an extremely positive day. Seeing so many children from different age groups and backgrounds come together and taking the lead at a demonstration was truly empowering. Adults have a lot to learn from these passionate, brave youngsters – and we have to start listening to them if we want to ensure a safe future.”

The movement that led up to today’s protests began when Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old student from Sweden who began protesting outside the Swedish parliament during her school hours over the effects of climate change. Since then she has gone on to become the face of the movement, and a prominent activist and voice within the environmental activism community.

Thunberg recently travelled to Davos to attend and speak at the World Economic Forum, where she told a panel “Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

“I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. We owe it to the young people, to give them hope.”

The youth who participate in today’s protests, and the protests that will inevitably happen more regularly from now on, are doing what needs to be done in terms of negating the effects of climate change: they are speaking truth to power.

These grassroots movements such as #SchoolStrike4Climate and the work of Extinction Rebellion is being mirrored in political parties across the world, from the UK’s Green Party, to the recent Green New Deal being proposed by American congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. These are not the ineffective climate secretaries we have seen in the past, these are, like the youth that follow and emulate them, people who are more than willing to make drastic change.

In the midst of the strikes being held in Australia after the highest seaside temperature ever in the Southern Hemisphere was recorded, high school student Imogen Viner said “Without activism, there’s no point in going to school, because there won’t be a future we want to live in.”

Traditionally, climate groups have been passive, nonpartisan; but that is not the case anymore. With the rise of political interaction within the younger generations, and the worsening degrees of ecological destruction, these groups are becoming more militant, more passionate, and more social-media savvy. They call out fossil fuel industries, corporate powerhouses, and climate change deniers to their face, and take no prisoners while doing so.

While some within the older generations may feel a sense of complacency and comfort, the younger generations can see the future that is being given to them, and quite frankly, they fear it. 12 years is the number they have been given, 12 years to alter the course of global history for the better. It’s a gargantuan task, and the weight of failure is something too dark to think about.

17 year old Rosie Smart-Knight, who participated in the strikes, wrote in an opinion piece “Even if the climate strike doesn’t prompt the change we need and demand, it has given so many young people across the country a chance to raise their voice and make it heard. This movement is allowing young people to realise they’re not alone, that others care about the climate, and are worried about the future. I will continue to raise awareness of the climate crisis, and I will continue to demand change”

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An image of Extinction Rebellion’s first ‘Rebellion Day’. A large majority of the protesters were young.

One hopes that the momentum of the growing climate activism movement, which consists of a myriad of groups across the world, does not falter. Guardian columnist George Monbiot writes that, for the movement to ultimately succeed, it needs a rigorous framework from which it acts from. Monbiot cites the need for a ‘narrative’, writing that it may go something like this:

“The world has been thrown into climate chaos, caused by fossil fuel companies, the billionaires who profit from them and the politicians they have bought. But we, the young heroes, will confront these oligarchs, using our moral authority to create a movement so big and politically dangerous that our governments are forced to shut down the fossil economy and restore the benign conditions in which humans and other species can thrive.”

In his piece, the writer also calls upon the movement to develop for itself a set of key tenets or ‘tangible objectives’, such as a date by which we operate a zero carbon economy, or a promise from the UK government to completely divest in fossil fuels. “This ensures that the activists, rather than the government, keep setting the agenda.”

More strength within the movement will come from proper training, communication, and a strong defence against divisive political intent. Already the School Strike and Thunberg are being targeted by rumours, criticism, and misinformation. They also need to be prepared for the passion-draining effect of emotional despair. Already groups have sprang up on Facebook designed to assuage the effects of climate-based depression or anxiety, with one being aptly-named ‘UK climate grief & eco anxiety hub for academics and concerned citizens‘.

It is clear that while politics and bureaucracy have an important part to play, they will not be enough without the firebrand and emotive voices and actions of the younger generations all over the world, for it is those generations that shall eventually take on ownership of this world. They do not want to be left a barren wasteland, they do not deserve such a poor legacy to inherit.

We need the youth because they are not deeply entrenched within the ideologies of a world which is slowly breaking apart through it’s own devices.

 

 

George Monbiot proposes new language for environmental protection

Last Thursday political and environmental activist, writer, and columnist George Monbiot took to Twitter to showcase what he suggests should be new terms for general use in the fight against climate breakdown.

The environmentalist, who recently spoke at an Extinction Rebellion event outside Parliament, wrote; ‘Here are my suggestions on how to talk about the living world with words that engage people, reveal rather than disguise realities, and honour what we seek to protect.’

We’ve put the old and proposed new terms in a table below.

Old Terms New Terms
The environment The living planet / the natural world
Climate change Climate breakdown
Global warming Global heating
Biodiversity Wildlife
Fish stocks Fish populations (they don’t exist to be exploited)
Natural resources Living systems / The fabric of the Earth (ditto)
Natural capital Nature / living systems
Ecosystem services Life support systems
Nature reserves Wildlife refuges (reserve suggests distance)
Extinction Ecocide / annihilation (these suggest agency)
The planet The living planet
Save the planet Defending the living planet
Climate sceptic Climate science denier (exact opposite of sceptic)
Freemarket thinktank Opaquely-funded lobby group

Monbiot recently published Out Of The Wreckage, a work concerning what he calls ‘the politics of belonging’ – ways in which we can take we can take back control of social, democratic, and economic life, through radical reorganisation, against forces who would seek to thwart the ambitions for a better, fairer society.

The writer is incredibly vocal on environmental activism through his twitter page, also using it to criticise the right-wing media and the presidency of Donald Trump.

The new language itself paints the world of environmental protection as both an imminent, urgent, and also, solvable, situation. In a previous tweet, explaining his use of ‘climate breakdown, over ‘climate change’ Monbiot wrote: ‘1. It better conveys the extent of the problem. 2. People don’t say “So what? The climate’s always breaking down” 3. It makes an implicit connection with the impact on our minds. 4. It suggests that we can fix it.’

What Monbiot is implicitly proposing is that to deal with climate breakdown and all ensuing related issues, we need to drastically rethink the way we perceive the living planet and our relationship to it, and this involves changing our very language to re-orientate those perspectives.

What are your thoughts on Monbiot’s new terms?