(c) Nick Hawkes (rspb-images.com)

This is the sixth in an exciting blog series exploring our vision for a Nature Positive world and how we can make it a reality. In this blog, Senior Policy Officer Marcus Nyman discusses our work on Nature Positive places and the importance of people and communities in protecting and restoring nature.


The scale of the climate and nature crisis may lead us to reach only for the big levers of change but places, people and communities matter when it comes to saving nature.


For some, it may seem obvious that place matter, while for others, the idea that conservation work needs to be grounded in people and place may seem like a nice-to-have, even a distraction. The current scale of the climate and nature crisis we might be lead to reach only for the policies and investments that will make the biggest difference. But ensuring that alongside nature, people and communities—and especially those already economically, socially or environmentally disadvantaged—benefit from such investment is critical to our long-term success.


The importance of place

Places matter to people’s sense of identity, community and belonging but they also matter for both nature and the economy. Fair, diverse and sustainable local economies can make local places more resilient. They can also help cluster activities and invest in the right skills and innovation, and can build trust and reciprocity between actors to deal with shared challenges and opportunities. What happens locally matters for nature as well – pollution from nearby activities, the importance of areas that transition from one habitat to another (edge effects), and changing movements and distribution of species all impact our ability to build coherent ecological networks. Unlike more abstract notions, nature always happens somewhere.


Nature Positive places

The significance of the local and the increasing national and global interest in shifting towards a more ‘Nature Positive’ economy has prompted us to ask what it might mean to foster Nature Positive places. This is not meant as an alternative to more macro approaches but complementary to work promoting Nature Positive action within key sectors and at the national and global level. A place-based approach helps us understand what our wider policy asks mean in practice. It also helps us identify the ways in which investing in nature can deliver local benefits (and vice versa), can help engage and empower local people to save nature, and can help avoid nature recovery being ‘imposed’ on local places. In this sense, the local is another angle from which to approach the challenge of shifting our economy; it is an entry point, rather than an end point.

Indeed, we cannot solve all of nature’s problems through a local lens, nor should we limit ourselves to care only for ‘local’ places or ‘localised’ economies, especially when nature is in crisis globally and our actions and decisions can impact distant places. Nature Positive places are therefore defined both by the state of nature locally and also the impact that local decisions and activities – whether through supply chains, procurement, investments or consumer choices – have elsewhere. We don’t need to solve all of these challenges at once to be able to bring the right people, policies, money and actions together in local places and begin to make progress. This means that a Nature Positive place provides a journey or a rallying point, rather than a standard to adhere to or a stamp of approval.


What we’re doing

As the RSPB, we recognise that we cannot achieve a Nature Positive world alone; partnering with a diverse set of organisations will be key to success and making it stick. In the case of Nature Positive places, we have started collaborating with a range of organisations already working in local places or on alternative economic models to form a ‘learning community’ to share ideas and challenges and to take practical action. This will help us be more alert to questions of equity, justice and access when advocating for and delivering nature recovery, while offering expertise and insight on nature and biodiversity to emerging alternative models for the economy. We are also exploring what ‘Nature Positive’ might mean for specific places where we have existing presence, starting with the Gwent Levels in Wales and the Greater Thames in England. There, we are asking where the opportunities are to better align nature and economy locally, who is needed to bring this to life, and the actions that would enable it.


How you can get involved

With all this in mind, there is no way in which we can or should seek to deliver Nature Positive places alone. We are eager to learn from all that is already ongoing and the experiences of others. Where, across the whole of the UK, are the conditions right to develop Nature Positive places? Where is this already happening? What are the key challenges we will face and who can help us overcome them?

If you are interested in joining our ‘learning community’ or have ideas to share or opportunities to flag, we would love to hear from you. If you have a case study or example to help bring the idea of a Nature Positive place to life, or if you would like to learn more then do get in touch.

Contact: Marcus Nyman, Senior Policy Officer, Future Nature - marcus.nyman@rspb.org.uk


Further reading:

Local Economies - RSPB: Local places are critical to recovering nature across the UK