Nature does a lot for us – what can we do for Nature?

Posted on: 20th August 2017

Nature does a lot for us – what can we do for Nature? This is one of the challenges that I’ve taken on by accepting my role in the Council Cabinet in Cornwall. It is probably one of the most exciting and daunting bits. If I can work with the staff, partner organisations and most importantly, the people of Cornwall and pull this Environmental Growth thing off, then my current term as a Cornwall Councillor will have been truly worthwhile.

Cornwall's Environmental Growth Strategy

Cornwall Council has a strategy …. but what does it mean?

There is much talk about looking after the countryside or protecting nature or working to save species whether it is bees, birds or mammals. However, many believe the damage to environment, whether air quality, our water ways or natural landscapes, is so great that protecting what is left is not good enough. We have to grow our natural environment to reverse the decline and ensure that us humans and the creatures that live alongside us can have healthy lives.

So, you will read that, as a Council, we aim to Protect and Enhance the Environment. When we consider what to do about this the word GROW will have to be writ large! We need to get wild flowers back, including more hedgerows and we need more trees and much less waste and pollution.

Our Council priorities talk about

  • using Council land to create jobs,
  • reducing waste and increase recycling and
  • supporting the development of renewable energy.
  • We also have the aspiration of  better health for everyone!

Those are snappy headlines but what should we do to give those words meaning?

Council Priorities in full…. can be read here!

Perhaps as well as using Council Land to provide jobs (and homes) we should think about the Council land we have as places we can grow nature. We own verges along some roadsides, we own many open spaces and have many acres through County Farms plus the land around our own Council Offices. Perhaps at the moment we regard these areas too much as a liability, needing money to maintain them so we look to reduce our costs and/ or responsibility for running them. We are too often overlooking them as a rich resource that could help improve our lives, if we were to invest more time, thought and a little money in them.

At the moment I am looking at how we reduce waste and increase recycling and the critics of the Council think that is just about saving the Council money. However, if businesses and individuals throw away less, perhaps because things we buy have less packaging and that we only buy what we need when we need it so waste less, then we all save money. Also, sometimes, what one person does not want and is going to throw away, could be useful or adapted by someone else. This type of thinking can be referred to as the circular economy, keeping things and money going around in Cornwall and as part of that, throwing away much less.

In terms of renewable energy then we all think we know what investing in that looks like but do we know what smart renewable energy systems are? If I’ve understood it correctly it is getting individuals and businesses to think about what energy they use, reducing use and therefore bills and encouraging individuals, communities and companies to look towards producing energy to meet their own needs. Again, reducing waste reduces costs and the damage to the planet but producing our own energy from renewable sources makes us less dependent on oil. Such thinking could make it possible for a place, like Cornwall, to work towards meeting its own energy needs. That would be true energy security and a significant contribution to the circular economy story in Cornwall.

Finally, there is better healthy for everyone. What if we grow nature so there are more lovely places to walk, explore and enjoy? What if we could improve the quality of the air we breath by reducing the use of diesel vehicles? Then more people would lead healthier lives for longer and be more active, less obese.

Am I writing about utopia or am I describing small changes that each and everyone of us could play a part in bringing about? Discuss! I’ve written this blog as I try to understand this challenge I have taken on as part of my role in the Cornwall Council Cabinet. Suspect I could devote the rest of my life to this and still only be offering a small droplet in our mighty oceans!

Click the link for full details of Cornwall’s Environmental Growth Strategy