Where the wild things will go
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Since moving to the UK over 10 years ago (😳) I have come to love the variety of the English landscape. Rolling farmlands, dense woods and forests, lakes and mountains, beaches with chalk cliffs and pebbled sands, highlands and moors. All of it is incredibly beautiful, and sadly we don't get to see much of it from our London home.
Climate change can often feel very far away, and very foreign. I've spoken a lot about the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable in the world, and even did a case study on Kenya (and I think these things are very important to know and remember by the way). But how will the climate emergency affect us here, at home?
Changes in temperature, caused by global warming, are already having an effect on UK wildlife. The Guardian reported a conversation with Martin Harper, the RSPB director of conservation, who said, “Climate change is the greatest long term threat to people and wildlife. We are already seeing its impacts, and, alongside other pressures on land and at sea, our wildlife is increasingly at risk.”
The State of Nature Report (2019) found that the "populations of the UK’s most important wildlife have plummeted by an average of 60% since 1970." The report found that a quarter of UK mammals and nearly half of the birds assessed are at risk of extinction. As well as this, it found 440 plants, 405 invertebrates and 232 fungi and lichen in danger. Our beautiful, wonderful, biodiverse, UK wildlife is in danger because of climate change.
A spotlight on bees: the UK is home to over 250 species of bee (what!), and they are all really important pollinators in our food system. One of the effects of climate change is that the seasons become disrupted - they start at different times, we have warmer and wetter winters, much hotter summers. This erratic weather means that bees find it harder to nest and feed (WWF).
Who remembers Storm Dennis? That was only a few weeks ago, but it has quickly been eclipsed in the news by Coronavirus. What I hadn't realised was that the UK was hit by 3 storms in February - Ciara, Denis and Jorge. The BBC interviewed Dr Mark McCarthy, from the National Climate information Centre, "having three such widespread extreme rainfall events in the same calendar month is exceptionally rare."
These storms caused crazy amounts of flooding in the north. Friends of the Earth said that these floods were made 40% more likely by the current effects of climate change, and that the climate crisis is only going to make flooding worse.
As well as more rain, the UK is also getting warmer. The 10 hottest years since 1884 occurred between 2002 and 2018 (State of the UK Climate 2018). Friends of the Earth state that "record summer temperatures led to moors like Saddleworth burning for days on end – damaging nature, threatening local towns and increasing air pollution."
We often think that countries like Australia are alone in tackling wildfires - but as the climate crisis intensifies we will have to deal with these issues too.
Not to be depressing but these examples only touch the surface. Climate change creates a chain reaction that echoes through every level of the ecosystem.
So what can we do?
Take action! Seriously, the time to act is now. And if you're unsure how, then read some of my other blogs and look out for some practical tips in April (sign up to the newsletter below to receive them).
I've also pulled together some suggestions for encouraging wild things:
Grow wildflowers: wildflowers are really good for bees (yay 🐝) and other pollinators. RSPB have a step-by-step guide for growing a wildflower meadow (how awesome would that be!). So why not give it a go and make a home for bees and other insects in your garden?
Plant trees (and other plants): most of us don't have space for trees in our gardens. However The Guardian reports that “the basic rule is that the more vegetation you have, the more carbon you are storing.” So get planting!
Eat more locally: read my blog about seasonal eating, and find out why I think that is the best approach to local eating.
The UK has some absolutely exceptional wildlife and landscapes. We shouldn't take them for granted, nor should we assume that they are immune to the effects of climate change. If we want the next generations to have what we currently enjoy then we need to protect wildlife, preserve habitats, love ecosystems, and treat the earth with the respect it deserves. In short, we have to fight the climate crisis. So let's get cracking! 👫