All the election talk seems to be about the economy, but there is more to our wellbeing and comfort than that. The natural world is fundamental to our existence, and underpins all economic activity. From the food we eat and the air we breathe, to most of our medicines and the rare earth metals in our electronic devices, we need nature.
This important issue is obscured because traditionally the contributions nature makes to our lives have been largely uncosted and undervalued. Attempts are being made to change this, not least through the concept of ‘natural capital’. A Natural Capital Committee has been studying this and making recommendations to the Government. Its work has been extended for six months so that it can talk to the new Government after the election.
Amongst the things it has studied has been the benefits provided by green infrastructure, and part of that is greenspace in towns and cities. This includes parks, allotments, nature reserves, and woodlands and wetlands. The Committee says that such places provide ‘substantial mental and physical health benefits’ with the potential to save the National Health Service £2.1bn every year. Other benefits include helping wildlife, ameliorating climate change, reducing flood risk, improving air quality and locking up carbon.
The Committee wants the new Government to commit to implementing its recommendations about investing in this and other aspects of natural capital. Here is your chance to bring environmental issues into the election debate. When candidates knock on your door ask them if their party will do this. (More details at www.naturalcapitalcommittee.org ). You could also ask them to support the Nature and Wellbeing Act being promoted by the Wildlife Trusts and other environmental organisations.
The more questions candidates are asked about nature the more attention will be paid to it. Local greenspaces are an ideal subject to raise; they are the link from your neighbourhood to national and international environmental issues. Here in the West Midlands we have a proud record of providing for and looking after our parks and nature reserves, but we have seen recently how difficult it is for local councils to provide the level of resources needed to do this. They will need help from the new government and you can help to send that message to Westminster.