What Climate Crisis? Are you listening?

Greta Thunberg’s repeated question: ”Are you listening?” meaning, are you really taking notice enough to act on behalf of this failing world now we have a climate and an extinction emergency on our hands?

Yes, I don’t know about you, but I am definitely listening, and I am only too aware of what we have lost and may be about to so that future generations won’t be able to enjoy nature as we did.

We all need to stand shoulder to shoulder with young and older activists like others and myself who have been holding back the worst-case scenario, but not making enough impact, for over 50 years.

That’s why NWT welcomes the climate strike on Friday 20th September and all that’s gone before it and why we have invited Extinction Rebellion onto our Big Wild Debate panel on Thursday 17th October.

We may have different methods but we are all part of the same cause, we want nature and wildlife to thrive. For this to happen we have to make radical changes that make wildlife resilient to climate warming and, as far as we can, individually and collectively help slow down and minimise the heating problem we have accelerated to dangerous levels.

Who can ignore the big iconic flags of how bad things can get in a year when we have seen the Arctic and Rainforests on fire, exceptional hurricanes and the breakdown of the Great Barrier Reef and widespread concern about pollinating insects? It may not be that bad here in the UK or Northumberland, and may never get so, but we all have to do our bit, we are all part of the global ecosystem.

The climate breakdown we see now and wildlife loss are inextricably linked as climate pressure combines with the other stresses on species and habitats. Pressures such as overuse of pesticides, which are killing our insect life and the loss of soil fertility which are the foundation of our food chains, combined with ongoing inappropriate infrastructure development, and pollution, including the widespread impact of plastics are all leading to a perfect storm emerging.

But it is not, I believe, too late! Indeed, there is still much awe and wonder to celebrate in the natural world and landscapes locally and globally, but we need to act together, as never before, in the next two decades to reverse negative effects of our species impact.

After all, and it may be a cliché already, but whilst we in the west at least, as well as in larger parts of the east, have several planets worth of resources, there really is, if we spoil the earth further, No Plan-et B.

It can get depressing, I have seen people anxious and visibly upset by the losses we see, and yes, we do need to feel the pain and grieve for what has gone or may be about to.

We need to love the natural world so much it hurts as Greta herself has said: “I don’t want you to be concerned; I want you to panic, to be moved to action to change things for the better”. However, to do this we also need what I call ‘active hope’; we have to use our concern to empower ourselves, organisations, and the public to act now for nature, in their own sphere where they can be most impactful.

Most of us at NWT won’t strike on the 20th September, as we are fighting the cause every single day, in the ways we can most help. We have been stepping up our activities in many ways, though we are far from perfect as people, as a charity or as environmentalists.

We can all do more and better things but it takes effort and a reframing of what we are used to - it’s not easy.

We believe we need to stand up for wildlife and build bigger, better, more joined up partnerships and harness massive resources to help nature recover at the largest scale, making everywhere wilder by degree, and we do this by acquiring and managing land in partnership with many others, increasing its capacity for carbon capture and fixing and for natural processes to flow.

Here are a few of the things NWT is doing to help the climate crisis and to help nature recover:

  • We are collaborating with many others to set up a climate change action forum in the North East to draw together resources and influencers ASAP to engage communities and charities of every type in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
  • Work continues with Forestry England and others in managing and repairing the Border Mires, a massive peatland carbon sink in our uplands, which along with other work at Whitelee, now Benshaw Moor and Kielderhead and other places we are re-naturalising large areas.
  • As land use changes happen and more land is ‘freed up’, we will aim to do as we are at Benshaw, get this land to be managed as part of a large-scale network for nature’s recovery.
  • We will also manage and extend wetlands and help promote wilder woodlands, on the principle of the right trees in the right place, as we are developing at Kielderhead to engender climate benefits, incorporating large new areas of wild land.
  • We are helping to repair and diversify ecosystems and where appropriate prepare habitats and even reintroduce lost species such as water vole and we hope, one day beaver and other ‘landscape actors’, as well as protect those that are threatened such as the red squirrel and also focus on species we use to think were common but are no longer, such as the hedgehog and many bird species and insects, amphibians and more.
  • We will continue to voice our opposition to any development that does not demonstrate a net gain for nature, and oppose any calls and proposals to extract coal from the landscape here; though we have many reserves as a result of this in the past, we cannot see carbon extraction happening in the middle of a climate crisis, whatever the justification.
  • We have fought hard to get Marine Protection Areas successfully in the North Sea in recent years and we will press hard still to make sure seas are manged with nature in mind, minimising pollution and respecting mobile species. We will input to the debate about how to develop offshore wind farms without the destruction of porpoise, other cetaceans and seabird feeding and breeding areas.
  • Through our centres, magazine, bulletins, social media and everything we do we will spread the message and raise awareness and point to how people can help, starting on the 20th September with pop up banners on this.

What can everyone do to help and get involved? There are many things we can all do, in the way we live and do things, which as small act swill cumulatively lead to bigger changes, in attitude and behaviour across society. We all know what most of these are, mainly it signifies a moderation of all we do in terms of travel, food choices and managing domestic waste and all we consume. It’s not about a giving everything up, it’s about wise choices that result in us all living lighter on the Earth. However, yes, we may have to demand less and give more back to nature. It is our life support, is that too much to ask?

For NWT, you can volunteer and get active in all the above and much more. We need volunteers to do everything from physical work on reserves and land we manage to staffing visitor centres, fundraising for projects, to engaging people and showing them the great wildlife we still have.

And of course, you can write regularly to your MPs, who, despite the political chaos, are still promising an Environment Bill in the Queens Speech. We need this to specify the mapping and creation of nature recovery networks to be statutory and we need to be seen as nature networks, not another scheme for large areas of special designation, as some are proposing, we want wilder everywhere! There are so many ways you can help.

Just do it, as the slogan goes, for nature and yourself. All is not lost, we can feel the pain of what is, but then use it to fuel us to reinstate nature so that we regard it and treat it as if is at the center of life and everything, as it actually is.