Some claim that today is "Blue Monday" - the most depressing of the day of the year because the weather is rubbish, the holiday season is over and there are big bills to pay. This may or may not be correct but it is certainly true that many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder. What's more, the pandemic is making life even more difficult with studies showing that people’s mental health is being affected by social distancing measures, their economic consequences and, for some, greater obligations at home. On top of this, fear of the nature and climate emergency has been shown to generate eco-anxiety and so it will be perfectly understandable if people are feeling very blue today.
To those that are struggling, I hope you are getting the support you need and you have coping strategies that work for you.
After the first few weeks of working from home, I had to adapt my working pattern particularly to deal with the fatigue associated with endless meetings online. I put fallow periods in my diary when I don’t have meetings and take more calls on the move when I am walking my badly behaved dog on the local common. It’s probably annoying for those on the other end of the line when I have to apologise while I try to prevent my dog shouting/barking at a small child but it does mean that I am getting some exercise and am able to clear my head.
This lockdown feels very different to last spring when many found solace in or were inspired by wildlife on their doorstep, helped of course by the glorious weather. If you can escape the rain and biting cold, listen carefully because things are changing. I noticed the difference this weekend as the sun shone for the first time in a week and the great tits were dominating the airwaves again - a sure sign that spring is on its way – and I heard my first drumming woodpecker of the year in Cambridge. Before long, the snowdrops and lesser celandine will be emerging, then there will be a race to find the first brimstone butterfly. Life always feels better in the spring and now is a great to time to look for early signs that the world is still turning, and the seasons are on the move. And, of course, there is always Big Garden Birdwatch to look forward to at the end of the month.
For those of you that need hope from our political leaders and belief that they are prepared to tackle the nature and climate emergency, there is also some good news.
First, it is clearly a great relief that Joe Biden will re-join the Paris Agreement on the first day of his Presidency this week. We need the US, which is responsible for 15% of the world’s emissions, to play their full part in decarbonising their economy and we need their active engagement in the run up to the crucial climate talks in Glasgow later this year.
Second, it was heartening to see the diplomatic effort being invested by the French Government at the "One Planet Summit” for biodiversity last week. The Summit was designed to galvanise a High Ambition Coalition of 52 countries keen to secure the right global deal for nature with a commitment for the protection of 30% of land and seas by 2030.
The Summit also aimed to ensure that more climate finance benefits biodiversity. This principle was supported by Canada, France, Norway and the UK which along with France announced that 30% of their climate funding would deliver for nature. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended the Summit and said that the UK would commit at least £3 billion to climate solutions that protect and restore nature and biodiversity over 5 years. This announcement applies to the doubled International Climate Fund budget of £11.6 billion to be spent over the next five years.
We welcomed this announcement because, as I have said on many occasions, we need to tackle the nature and climate emergency in a joined-up way. Climate change is clearly a global issue and many of the worst effects are being felt by those in developing nations. Through this investment, the UK can help to protect and restore irreplaceable habitat, whilst supporting those who depend upon the natural environment for their lives and livelihoods.
It is right that the UK seeks to play a leadership role internationally, yet there is more that we can and must do at home starting with legally binding commitments by the four governments of the UK to restore nature by 2030, ensure the renewable energy revolution takes place in harmony with nature and invest in restoration of habitats important for both wildlife and locking up carbon. And, crucially, the UK Government's environmental strategy needs to be coherent. It was the wrong decision to allow sugar beet producers to use seeds treated with neonicotinoids. It is why we have joined forces with 40 other organisations to urge the UK government to reverse this decision and instead invest in supporting farmers to research and adopt non-chemical alternatives to farm with nature instead of against it.
Tackling the nature and climate emergency requires politicians to make the right decisions. As voters and members of civil society we need to make it desirable for politicians to use their voices for nature and costly if they do not.
We all need nature, but nature needs us to be at our best. So, look after yourself . Especially today.
Ben Andrew's image of a great tit (rspb-images.com)
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