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Project Wild Thing blog: The state of nature

The recent report ‘State of Nature’ highlights the need to rekindle our own and our children’s love of nature, writes David Bond

I’m stuck in an office in the centre of London. It is clear that nature is fighting a losing battle against the concrete expansion. It is a sacrifice of living and working in a major city. But I imagine that I can grab the children, jump on a train and, within an hour, enjoy some deep green. But a recent report called ‘State of Nature’ reveals that may not be true for long.

Put together by the RSPB and 24 other wildlife organizations from a wealth of data collected over the last two centuries, the report assesses the changing state of our plants and animals. Here’s the situation:

60% of UK species have declined over the last 50 years, with 31% exceeding the ‘strong decline’ threshold

Recent environmental changes across the UK have caused over 50% of species to dramatically decline and change their habitats

More than 1 in 10 species are severely at risk of extinction

These new statistics are eye-opening. And they are universally significant – they will inevitably affect us all in some way. While filming Project Wild Thing I found that as our attention is drawn to screens and other indoor distractions, we become increasingly separated from the natural world. The irony is that as this separation increases, we cause more harm to the natural world. By leaving it alone, we kill it by neglect.

The more time you spend learning about nature first-hand, the more you will care about, and recognize its vital importance. I can talk for hours to the children about how a spider spins a web. But they’ll learn more in 5 minutes in the company of the spider. This is what I’m most scared of for my children and for coming generations – that as they grow insulated from nature’s positive influence, they reject it in its time of greatest need. Nature needs passionate naturalists, who care for the plant and animal species struggling to maintain their positions in rapidly changing habitats.

Where do these people come from? They grow up in family gardens and spend time in local parks, woodlands and seashores. They care about the environment because they experience it. They have a sense of oneness with nature and as the relationship grows they start to develop a feeling of responsibility for its welfare. This attitude has to start young and requires the freedom and time to explore. I spent countless hours with friends climbing trees, building dens, catching bugs and watching birds – not for any reason other than to learn and to have fun. My children get their nature in small, controlled doses. I’m genuinely frightened that my childhood experience is evaporating – not only because children spend more time inside but also because the ‘stuff’ of nature is disappearing.

Perhaps the decline can be slowed, stopped or even turned around. It is hopeful to see such a large group of organizations come together for this one purpose. Our own Wild Network has formed in a similar way. It is heartening to see individuals and groups joining together to give strength to a cause that will determine the quality of millions of future childhoods, and their environment.

What can we do? We can raise awareness of the gravity of the situation, and the fact that it will get worse unless we act. We can find ways to encourage involvement in local nature reserves and research-based projects. But top of the list – and this should be government policy – we must work to rekindle our own and our children’s love of the ultimate free wonder-product: nature.

Then, if we’re lucky, we might produce a new Durrell or Attenborough.

All content and images © Green Lions Ltd 2013

Find out more about the State of Nature report.

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