“To restore the stability of our planet, we must restore its biodiversity, the very one that we have removed. This is the only way out of this crisis that we ourselves have created. –David Attenborough
April’s Sustainable Development Goal is life on land; life that we as a species are increasingly putting at risk.
Humans live alongside millions of other species; but when it comes to sharing the planet, we are by far the most selfish and destructive. According to UNEP, human activity has altered almost 75% of the earth’s surface, with dangerous ripple effects. IPBES estimates that approximately one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction in the world, the countdown not being counted in centuries, but in decades. The numbers speak for themselves: time is running out to prevent what could become irreversible changes.
And it does not stop there; the real danger is what’s around the corner. Several years after the start of a pandemic, we already have an idea of the global devastation caused by zoonotic diseases that emerge from damaged ecosystems. What happens when we have destroyed the forests that are home to 80% of all terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects? that help support 1.6 billion people; and who play an essential role in the fight against climate change? From the global economy to the global health system, to the climate itself: biodiversity is not only our greatest asset, but risks becoming our greatest failure.
“We need to protect nature, restore ecosystems and strike a balance in our relationship with the planet. The rewards will be enormous. – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
UK Youth for Nature: hope for the future
But there are reasons for hope. Community conservation initiatives to protect local species are critically important in the broader fight against nature loss. UNRIC spoke with Talia Goldman, co-director of UK Youth for Naturean organization leading the way in mobilizing young people in the fight to prevent nature loss and protect biodiversity across the UK.
Tell us a bit about your organization.
UK Youth for Nature is the UK’s leading youth movement calling for urgent political action to tackle the nature crisis. We are an incredibly ambitious, focused, passionate and nature-loving group of 16-35 year olds from a wide variety of backgrounds. We have been on a mission since 2019 to mobilize and empower young people to directly engage and campaign for policy change on nature and wildlife across the four UK countries.
What methods do you use to get your message across?
We fundamentally believe in the power of art and visual media to engage people in our campaigns and to communicate our demands and demands in a way that leaves a lasting impression. When we campaign we want to bring the credibility of our aims and the importance of UK wildlife and nature to the hearts of politicians and political representatives. We also use social media, write letters, meet politicians, work with organizations across the UK and much more.
Why is biodiversity so important in the UK?
The UK is one of the most nature-poor countries in the world – we have ravaged much of our landscape through industry, construction and the intensification of agriculture. This has led to the incredible degradation of our nations’ ecosystems; our waters are polluted, forests are gone, bogs and wetlands are drying up and 41% of UK species are in decline with 13% threatened with national extinction.
And yet the UK is home to an incredible number of unique landscapes, habitats and species – those that can provide us with ecosystem services vital to our health and to mitigating climate change, as well as the cultural benefits of a fantastic natural beauty. From the sand dunes of the Sefton coast and the endangered oyster beds of Essex to the majority of the world’s chalk streams found in southern England, the temperate rainforest fragments of the Atlantic coast and our vast mudflats vital to wintering migratory birds, we live in nations full of variety but in urgent need of greater protections, investment in restoration and effective policy development.
You recently made a 50m sand drawing on Scarborough beach to highlight the loss of species across the UK. What was the purpose of this “natural stuntman”?
With the help of sand artists sand in your eyes and the support of many UK conservation organisations, including the RSPB, Curlew Action, WWF, the Bat Conservation Trust, Froglife etc., we have drawn a 50m long sand drawing of the UK enveloping four British species biologically important: Eurasian curlew, Atlantic salmon, Eurasian beaver and oak.
Taken together, these species are more than the sum of their parts. We wanted to physically draw a line in the sand so as not to lose nature again. And as the drawing was swept away by the rising tide and we watched our islands, our coastline, our landmass and our critical species disappear, we sounded the alarm about the future of our natural world.
What do you have planned for the future and how can readers get involved?
We have a huge amount planned this year, campaigning nationally, regionally and locally across the UK. Not only will we continue to shout loud and clear that nature cannot wait, but we will seek specific changes on issues such as freshwater pollution, access to nature, biomass and combustion, catering and many more to come.
We are always looking for new members and supporters to join our network and organizing team! Connect with us on our Instagram or Twitter (@ukyouth4nature) or email us at [email protected].