Is waking up to birdsong giving you boost in the morning? Or maybe you find a daily walk in nature just what you need to clear your head during difficult days?

Goldfinch - John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Gold Finch. Photo credit: John Bridges (rspb-images.com)

Nature is playing an important role in providing comfort and relief to everyone during lockdown, and this comes as no real surprise considering the well-documented research that examines how access to nature-rich green space and a thriving natural environment can benefit both our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The lockdown restrictions have given us an opportunity to reconnect with the nature on our doorstep, but while birdsong might sound louder than ever before, it’s only because we’re taking the time to listen. Nature is still in dangerous decline and climate change remains one of humanity’s biggest threats.

Growing scientific evidence indicates that the health of humanity depends on the health of the planet and the Covid-19 crisis has made the consequences of over-exploiting nature and the vulnerability of our ecosystems more apparent than ever. 

Yet when we think of the decline of nature, we often think of world events like the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest, habitat destruction in Indonesia or the melting polar ice caps. But the decline of nature is also happening here, with the 2019 State of Nature report showing that one in five species in Northern Ireland is at risk of extinction.

Belfast Lough RSPB NI Reserve by Gregory Woulahan
Belfast Lough RSPB NI Reserve. Photo credit: Gregory Woulahan (rspb-images.com)


We will continue to lean on nature for support as we recover from the Covid-19 crisis, but we need to ensure that nature recovers too. A green recovery post Coronavirus will help support the long-term restoration of our community, economy, climate and environment.

Over recent weeks, the Northern Ireland Executive have begun to implement plans for the country’s Roadmap to Recovery, outlining how to emerge from lockdown and re-start the economy. The decisions made by the Northern Ireland Executive now, will have lasting impacts on our natural environment and could lead to a return to the status quo. Pursuing short-term measures to boost economic growth (such as new trade deals with no environmental standards) over long-term plans to strengthen nature’s resilience will put our future prosperity at risk.

That’s why RSPB NI, alongside 40 signatories across environmental and community organisations, businesses, academics and campaigners have written an open letter to the First Minister and deputy First Minister calling for a resilient economy, healthy communities and a thriving natural environment to be at the heart of the recovery effort.
Stormont Northern Ireland Assembly, Belfast by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Stormont Northern Ireland Assembly, Belfast. Photo credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

The letter asks the NI Executive to adopt three principles:
Create a more resilient economy by investing in the infrastructure, housing, technology and skills to generate thousands of new jobs that directly contribute to a sustainable future and ensuring that public and private finance meets a ‘net zero test’.

Increase space for nature and people by introducing measures that enhance access to, and improve the provision of, high-quality, nature-rich green space.

Strengthen nature’s protections by ensuring the swift passage of environmental legislation and introducing targets in law for the restoration of nature on a massive scale including incentives for sustainable farming, fishing and food production.
 
Now is not the time to simply build back, we must build back BETTER. Protecting nature internationally is one of the most important steps any government can take to reduce the risk of further pandemics and secure a long-term, sustainable future. We are calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to plan for a green recovery and to choose policies and investment that benefit, nature and climate, as well as people.

But it’s not just our calls we want the government to hear. Everyone can play a part and have a voice for nature. We will need your support to share this message at the right time and show how nature is more important to the people of Northern Ireland than ever before. Subscribe to our blog to keep up to date, or become one of our campaign champions, and we’ll soon reveal the actions you can take to help us fight for a better future.
Belfast Lough RSPB NI reserve_Roost flock of black-tailed godwits and shipping_Photo credit Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Belfast Lough RSPB NI reserve. Roost flock of black-tailed godwits and shipping. Photo credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
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