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Our members comment: Would a Nature and Wellbeing Act help us value and respect nature?

SWM member, Peter Shirley, representing the Wildlife Trusts for SWM is also a columnist for the Birmingham Post. Here is his recent 11th September comment. “Ahead of the General Election, two of the nation’s leading nature conservation bodies are calling for all parties to commit to a Nature and Wellbeing Act. This would underpin a step change in our attitudes towards, action for and resources invested in the natural world. With no effective voice for this within government, it is down to organisations like The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB to demonstrate the importance of action to support both nature’s and our well-being. The act is being promoted, not as a replacement for existing laws and regulations, but as a critical addition which will move society on from protection, damage limitation and penny-pinching to positive action which will reverse decades of decline. People’s thinking needs to change: nature should be treated in the same way and be given the same importance as economic development. We need healthy natural systems as much as healthy economic systems. The current situation is appalling and any future government would have to work hard to make it worse. Among other things, agencies like Natural England and the Environment Agency have been ripped apart, wildlife is disappearing from our farmlands, the Government has dragged its feet with regard to Marine Protected Areas and so-called ‘sporting estates’ persecute predators such as hen harriers. Despite continuing austerity and great need in other areas of nature conservation, there is money for the pointless badger cull (beginning again this week) and removal of harmless beavers from the river Otter in Devon. The beavers should be cause for celebration, not removal. In the field of policy, proposed new regulations are often fiercely resisted – most recently, those which would prevent the ploughing up of old wildflower meadows and those to restrict the use of dangerous pesticides. When faced with new regulations, farmers demand scientific evidence of the need for them while ignoring such evidence when it doesn’t suit them. The proposed act is designed to lead us out of this ecological cul-de-sac. It would help to secure the benefits of the natural world for future generations, from better health to cleaner water, from prosperous fisheries to abundant pollinators and from liveable cities to awe-inspiring landscapes. It is time to stop oppressing and suppressing nature and to instil its care and improvement into the national psyche. Political leadership is crucial to this and you can help by asking your parliamentary candidates if they will support the proposed act.”   • More details at can be found at www.wildlifetrusts.org.

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