Guest blog by Samantha Lyster - Communications Manager, Birmingham.

It’s a rare situation where national political debate is sparked by women wearing bikinis. Not since the outcry over the Protein World marketing campaign, featuring an athletic model in a two piece, has swimwear prompted collective conversations over social issues, but then we’ve only recently had the British phenomenon of ITV’s Love Island. 

For those unfamiliar with the story, during episode five of the reality television show, which is watched by over three million viewers at peak times, contestants chatted poolside about Brexit. One of whom, a Hayley Hughes, asked if Brexit would mean the reduction of trees.

There followed much mocking of Miss Hughes across social media, with newspaper journalists filling column inches with opinions of the former model.

Yet, one would urge everyone to hold back on the judgement and applaud Hayley for making that one comment. As wildlife enthusiasts in Sandwell we all know that the natural world is suffering, and in the past month or two, it feels like the news has been full of growing evidence of the dramatic decline in our wildlife at every level, from insects to mammals. Back in 2016, the State of Nature report had already laid the facts bare: we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world, and it’s getting worse.

I say we all know this, but has the accelerating habitat loss of greenspaces and woodlands really registered with the public? When Blue Planet showed the full impact of ocean plastic it prompted action, however such devastation is taking place on land too. And for the RSPB a major concern is that the situation could deteriorate further following Brexit.

The RSPB is acutely aware of what Brexit could mean for the environment.  On the one hand we could see the erosion of environmental laws and their enforcement that could, indeed, lead to the loss of trees, in fact to the disappearance of greenspace and the landscapes that wildlife depends upon. And yet this moment of political flux could also offer opportunities to strengthen laws and their enforcement, and see more trees, and more wildlife.  It will be public debate and demand for a better deal for nature that pushes politicians one way or the other.

Therefore, we’re calling on the public, and the people of Sandwell, to make their voices heard and join the call for an environmental watchdog.

Communicating the urgency for people to take this situation seriously is a priority for the RSPB, and the organisation is aware that it is vital this message reaches as wide an audience as possible. So far political debate around Brexit has concentrated on trade and immigration. We need more focus on the impact for our green and pleasant lands because time is running out for nature’s recovery.

Some 52 per cent of Love Island’s audience is aged between 16-34 and one hopes a good number of those viewers Googled the possible meaning behind Hayley’s concern for post-Brexit trees. As we’ve seen with the call for a reduction in plastic, hopefully these viewers and you will be moved to take action and raise these concerns with the government.

To take part in the government consultation click here