After two almost wholly dry months in much of the UK, after punishing heatwaves in southern Europe, accompanied by devastating fires, it feels to me as if this has been the summer in which we have met the reality of climate change; as if the old ways are over and anything is possible now.
We all know the hard facts. For decades the carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels by our manufacturing and construction industries, our transport, our household energy use and many other aspects of our lives has been trapping heat from the sun, just as the glass does in a greenhouse, and altering our climate. More recently scientists have clearly shown that methane and carbon dioxide released by our livestock industry — for which the human world has an ever-growing demand — have played at least an equal role in climate change.
Climate change will have a devastating effect on human endeavours, not least the agricultural industry on which we in East Anglia are so dependent. But it will also have a dramatic effect on our wildlife and this too will affect us greatly. Science has recently taken strides in understanding the value of biodiversity. By this I do not mean financial value, which belittles biodiversity and places it in the growth-led, economic paradigm which has led us into this terrible mess. I mean the
intrinsic value of biodiversity in the processes which — quite literally — keep us alive. Many recent studies, across the world, have shown that the better biodiversity is preserved — the more species exist in an ecosystem and interact with one another in it — the more robustly that ecosystem provides the very things on which human life depends: water, oxygen, healthy soils, protection from flooding and much more. Wild species, diverse and abundant, directly equate to better health and wellbeing for humanity.
There has never in human history been a more urgent need to rally behind initiatives to preserve the already ravaged integrity of our ecosystems, giving every species a place in which to live and to interact with others, with the soil and the landscape, thus providing the life support without which we humans cannot survive. At Norfolk Wildlife Trust we have long since abandoned the idea of conservation on nature reserves alone. Sharply aware of the threats of climate change, of development and of continued habitat loss, we have been working for a number of years towards a vision for wildlife conservation (shared with all our Wildlife Trusts partners in the UK) called A Living Landscape
This vision views the whole UK landscape as habitat to be restored for humans and for wildlife, enabling all of us to adapt to climate change and other future threats. If during this searing summer you have even once dived into the shade of trees in the street or dabbled your toes in a stream, you innately understand the need for A Living Landscape. The wild and all its creatures are our home, our refuge from the beating sun, source of our all soils, oxygen, fresh water and food. Without them there is no human life.
At Norfolk Wildlife Trust we cannot make this critical journey towards A Living Landscape alone. By its very nature this vision requires every stakeholder in the landscape to stand up and clamour for a healthy home for wildlife and for people; to demand that the rigours of climate change be met by robust networks of habitat for wildlife across the land, in which species can adapt and essential ecological processes be maintained. As never before, in every way, we need your support.
So, as I sit writing in parched August, projecting my thoughts forward to October, I reflect on the many Norfolk Octobers I have known and I hope, for all our sakes, that this year’s will be the same. I hope for a mild, damp start to the month, rich in berries and insects for migrant birds, and with lush grass for returning geese. I hope for wind and heavy rain to arrive mid-month and for sorrowful mist to lie on the land in the mornings. I hope for fallow deer to cough with lust in the gold-leaved woods and for fungal fruiting bodies to spring from the moist earth beneath their feet. I hope tawny owls will shriek and bicker in the night, claiming territory for next spring’s breeding. In the wake of the Beast from the East and this unrelenting summer, I hope — more than ever before — for these things to come true in October, as they always have in my life until now. But above all I hope that the people of Norfolk will lend renewed support to the organisations, Norfolk Wildlife Trust among them, which are gathering forces for a fight as has never been seen before: for our wildlife, for A Living Landscape and for the wild we all call home, in the face of climate change.
Nick Acheson is NWT's Wildlife Evangelist. Find him on twitter @themarshtit
Header photo by Elizabeth Dack
This article also appears in the October issue of EDP Norfolk Magazine