Silence where there used to be bird song. Polluted air. Plastic littered hedgerows. Less wildlife. Up and down the country people are noticing that our environment is not as healthy as it used to be.
In February, Greener UK member organisations surveyed 2,500 of their supporters. The responses show deep concern for the state of nature in the UK. Wildlife decline, climate change and plastic pollution topped the list of people’s worries. Over 90 per cent had noticed plastic litter where they live. Eighty two per cent had noticed fewer wild animals and 72 per cent had seen less insects. Over half of our respondents pointed to less bird song and a similar number raised concerns about air pollution.
This seems a far cry from realising the government’s mission to leave the environment in a better state. Comments received in the survey repeatedly reflected how worried people are.
“Without wildlife mankind will not exist. Earth is their home as well as ours. Nature improves well being and is inspirational. We need to preserve it and do more.” Greener UK survey respondent
But it’s not all doom and gloom as the public is also interested in how we can reverse the decline in nature and the health of our environment. This is clearly demonstrated through the 176,746 responses Defra received to its consultation on post-Brexit environmental governance last year.
The draft Environment Bill, published in December 2018, is a good start but it will have to be bolder and more ambitious to achieve the level of environmental protection and change people want. This is a hugely important opportunity for government to cement its green credentials and put in place a strong and durable framework to tackle our environmental challenges and crises.
“I would hope that those in government and our MPs would consider for a moment the future for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. What legacy are we leaving for them?” Greener UK survey respondent
Our survey reflects the overwhelming public support for maintaining robust environmental standards and protections after Brexit: 98.5 per cent thought that the government should commit to make sure standards aren’t watered down. While 97 per cent said that standards should be higher. There was also strong backing for an independent environmental watchdog, and 98 per cent agreed that the government should be legally required to follow environmental principles when making laws.
“This a golden opportunity to establish world leading environmental standards and we must not fail to realise this potential.” Greener UK survey respondent
And these views aren’t reserved for the eight million supporters of Greener UK’s member organisations. Numerous opinion polls over the past three years have shown the extent of concern that people from all walks of life have to protect our precious countryside and the expectations they have for parliamentarians to act.(See the YouGov/Friends of the Earth public poll in 2016; Bright Blue polling of Conservatives in 2017 and the NUS student poll in 2018)
“The environment and the protection of its people and wildlife should be paramount in all law making and be the primary concerns of all political parties. Time is running out.” Greener UK survey respondent
So there is a rising clamour for our politicians to act. Greener UK will be working with our members and supporters to make sure this message is heard loud and clear across government.
[Image: Snowdon mountain in Wales. Courtesy of Alan Rouiller via Flickr]