Climate Action Newcastle is marking World Nature Conservation Day as the United Nations prepares for a crucial biodiversity summit in Kunming in October. You can see the latest draft of its proposals here.
They include 2030 draft targets, new goals for the middle of the century including reducing the current rate of extinctions by 90%, enhancing the integrity of all ecosystems, valuing nature’s contribution to humanity and providing the financial resources to achieve the vision.
This was recent coverage in The Guardian
We asked CAN members and fellow community groups in Newcastle and the North East what conservation means to them. Read on to see what they said!
Jo Ellis, CAN member and part of Friends of Nuns Moor Park, shares why Newcastle’s parks – so special for many of us during lockdown – are vital green spaces providing a multitude of services for people, wildlife and the life of our city.
Why is nature conservation important for parks?
Well, of course it's a good thing for wildlife. When the green deserts of modern agriculture barely contain anything that isn't a crop, and even gardens in the city are increasingly tarmacked over, or built upon,
our parks are green oases, harbouring thousands of species.
At the human level, we can feel happy that we've done the right thing in protecting biodiversity within the city. And, in terms of our own experiences, we can find delight and wonder in seeing nature all around us - the blue tits on the bird feeder, the squirrels in the trees, the shining beetles in the undergrowth.
Read Jo’s full blog to hear how parks are beginning to be valued as vital “green infrastructure” in town planning.
The Natural History Society of Northumbria share how they are inspiring the next generations to love and care for our North East nature.
Why does nature conservation matter to you?
Simply put, to protect wildlife and promote biodiversity.
By conserving nature, we also maintain a healthy ecosystem vital to all parts of daily life, from the air we breathe to the food we eat. Nature itself is also our biggest ally in the fight against climate change, and by ensuring healthy, functional ecosystems, from oceans to forests, we go some way to mitigating the impacts of a problem we ourselves have inflicted upon the planet.
The natural world is diverse, beautiful and full of wonder, bringing joy, calm and intrigue to people across the North East.
By protecting nature, we ensure that for future generations, the species and habitats we cherish today will be more than just a distant memory.
Are there any particular changes you are involved in supporting or pleased to see happening this year?
At NHSN, it is a pleasure to work with so many passionate volunteers committed to protecting nature, both at Gosforth Nature Reserve where conservation action supports species and habitats scarce in the local area, and across the wider North East.
Of all the work we’re involved in, it is the creation of a new Nature Learning Centre that fills us with the greatest hope. Once complete, this new building will serve as a centre for education welcoming young people from across the region.
No one will protect what they do not care about: by providing memorable experiences and sharing the wonder of the natural world, we hope to promote understanding and awareness, ultimately encouraging young people to protect the natural world in the future.
Mima Cattan, dedicated CAN member and active member of the NHSN, offers a personal reflection on what conservation means to her, her children and her grandchildren.
In my earliest memories I was one with nature and nature was one with me. It enveloped me, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the light and colours and what it felt like. Little by little features started appearing: the sound of trees and the colours of small flowers in the summer, the taste of berries, the smell of the sea and the feeling of earth under my feet. I was immensely curious about everything in nature but I was also awed by the beauty of everything within it.
Nature conservation became important to me the day I grasped that everything in nature, including us, was connected, just as my children and grandchildren have understood. Nature isn’t just our playground, a punch bag or a bottomless resource. It responds, withdraws or disappears depending on how it is treated.
Read Mima’s full blog to learn how she has turned her connection to nature into action and why, amongst all the conservation initiatives out there, she especially admires Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Border Mires restoration and protection project.
Annie Lloyd from the countryside charity (CPRE) would like us all to spare a thought for part of our landscape that is usually overlooked in tackling climate change. Hedgerows are climate heroes!
CPRE have long recognised the value of our hedgerows, peatlands and woodlands.
We’re not only passionate about their role as part of our much-loved landscapes - views of dark peat bogs, clusters of ancient trees and hedgerows threading across the tapestry of our countryside together are all iconic sights - but are alive to their value in locking up carbon.
Read Annie’s blog to see why she feels Government action plans for trees and peat must add ambitious targets for planting more hedges.
Hermione Lovel, dedicated CAN member and key player in our mini-forests campaign, celebrates our “natural health service”.
Urban green space: each urban tree, each garden hedge, each flowering weed in Newcastle’s back lane cobbles and walls, the jackdaws in my neighbours’ unused chimney, sparrows in the privet hedges on the Estate, the shrieks of the (few) swifts over Nun’s Moor, earthworms in the soil, and my beloved hedgehogs visiting nightly just now. These are some examples of our amazing natural capital, delivering ‘ecosystem services’, our very own ‘nature savings account’ and our ‘Nature Newcastle family heirlooms’. Let’s not forget Gosforth Nature Reserve, Jesmond Dene, and Leazes Park, as our ‘Natural health service’ brings us wellbeing from Nature too.
I continue to be amazed about the ‘services’ from our natural world – not just the pollination to form our fruit and veg and the grain for bread and beer, but the air quality improvement so there is less air pollution.
It’s not just by releasing oxygen for every land-living creature to be able to breathe, but also the adsorbing (yes, you read right, adsorbing!) of damaging vehicle particulates so they are held on leaves, literally cleaning the air beside roads.
Our ‘natural health service’ from Nature and Green Space continues to brings us lockdown liberation and so much other green space wellbeing. We need the shade on too hot days, that also reduces the heat sink of cities. Many are now planting specifically with shade as well as carbon sequestration in mind and much more needs to be done to protect what we already have as it will be 20-30 years before new young trees can contribute. I am deeply interested in Nature cleaned air preventing diseases like asthma, protecting better those with heart and respiratory conditions, and helping children to grow healthy lungs. All of us who grew up in the coal fires and smoky streets of Newcastle and other cities in the 1950s have a lifelong physiology to show for it. We particularly need clean air now!
Lizzie Lowe, local musician, Music in Nature teacher and support worker for Stomping Grounds Forest School, invites us to listen to her song “Mother Nature” to learn what conservation means to her.
Her feelings in three words: Preservation For Generations.
Órla Miller, Climate Action Newcastle member, invites us to cast our minds beyond Newcastle and send a thank you to all the indigenous conservationists in the world.
For many people in Western society, global “conservation” conjures images of endangered species that need saving from extinction: elephants being hunted for their tusks, polar bears floating helplessly on their melting icebergs, or tigers lying wounded by poachers in the jungle. All images somehow “separate from” but “caused by” humans. The solution? Limiting humans’ interactions with nature to observation, rather than interaction; protection, rather than symbiosis. Natural parks, where nature is “left to flourish”, but also closely monitored by us. This is perfectly understandable; I myself grew up with this idea of conservation, given that it is the main message we are fed through the media and Western global conservation charities. That is at least until I started learning more about environmental justice, and I realised that the very conservation charities I supported could be fuelling human rights violations and that their work could be done (and is being done) more effectively for a fraction of the price.
Of course, protecting biodiversity is an important part of looking after our planet, but we must always ask the question: Who benefits from our idea of conservation and who could be harmed by it?
Read Órla’s full blog to learn about the struggles faced by indigenous peoples, nature’s best conservationists, and to be taken on a journey of what it would be like if Newcastle were converted into a natural park.
Trai Anfield, a local natural history photographer and filmmaker who has taken her work global, shares her concerns for nature conservation as her photography captures the devastating effects of climate change on wild animals and their habitats, putting them in dangerous situations.
This may look like a cute and idyllic sighting on safari, but the intensity in this lioness’s stare is a reflection of her desperation to get her cub out of life-threatening danger. Though the connection may not be obvious, the cause of their peril can be traced to climate change and deforestation.
Read Trai’s full blog here to find out how deforestation and floods forced this family out of their home and into a neighbouring pride’s territory, risking everything.
Olwyn Hocking, Climate Action Newcastle member, was thrilled to find an inspiring example of conservation on her regular route for fell walking in the Lake District.
One heartening recent trend is the cultural change that’s taken place in attitudes to leaving verges and grass areas to grow wild as meadows. In the past, local councils would be criticised for dereliction of duty if verges weren’t pristine “manicured lawn”.
Now people are beginning to see uncut areas as sanctuaries for wildlife and healthy for the planet.
A great example can be found on outings from Newcastle to the Eden Valley. The Melmersby village green now has a large area that’s left unmown all spring and summer. A lovely sign drawn by a local child says: “Bee Friendly Area – please don’t mow”. The initiative was started in 2020 by the Village Green Nature Conservation Group, who planted some plug plants, with Yellow Rattle to hold back grasses and encourage bee-friendly flowers. Visitors could be forgiven for wondering where it will all end, if they happen to see the local llama trek farm exercising its herd there!
My hope for 2021’s World Nature Conservation Day is that this greater understanding of how we’re all interconnected will help to turn the tide on the sad trend that is heading in the opposite direction – that for concreting over gardens or laying fake turf. Let’s spread the word about the flooding risks and harm done to wildlife – especially those who work tirelessly to support human life, such as worms and bees.
Rachel Locke, from Save Newcastle wildlife speaks out against housing developments that have already replaced our city’s last breeding population of red squirrels and the threats of future housing plans.
Nature is not thriving in Newcastle. Just last year, the city lost its last breeding population of red squirrels from Havannah Nature Reserve. Now the last habitat for Brown Hare - in Newcastle Great Park - will be lost to a huge housing development. Both Havannah Nature Reserve and Gosforth Park Nature Reserve are threatened by huge housing estates and almost 3,000 houses are proposed for the outer west, at Callerton, which will drastically increase the likelihood of flooding around the Ouseburn and see further loss of wildlife habitat. None of this will resolve the affordability crisis. But it will fuel the biodiversity crisis.
The default position to put profit and endless growth before people and planet must end.
Read Rachel’s full blog to find out more about Save Newcastle Wildlife’s campaigns for conserving local wildlife.
Jacky Doran, Climate Action Newcastle convener, was surprised to find such beauty in what she describes as “Cemetery Heaven”.
Lockdown made so many of us so much more aware of nature and how much we affect it.
Reduced pollution, traffic and flights meant the world looked more beautiful and we could hear it too.
Walking and cycling more locally brought me to places that took my breath away and two of them happened to be cemeteries.
The Church of St Alban at Earsdon near Whitley Bay has a wonderful cemetery designated as a Site of Local Conservation Interest. The old part of the cemetery is centred on the tragic Hartley Pit Disaster memorial surrounding it in native wildflowers and is stunning at any time of year.
Meeting friends in Durham later on in the pandemic led to a walk through the grounds of St Oswalds Church. With a view of Durham Cathedral through the trees, the entire grounds are a wildflower meadow.
We were surrounded by pollinators, birds and insects of all sorts – an absolute delight.
This is just a little snippet of why we all need to fight to conserve nature and our planet and how the spaces we all take for granted can make such a difference.