Life after lockdown – locking in environmental benefits

May 2020

In the seven weeks of lockdown many people have quickly become familiar with home working, meetings via Zoom or Microsoft Teams and educating their kids at home.

And amongst the many challenges there is at least one good thing to come out of our new circumstances: we’re beginning to remember what nature provides to us for free.

Nature was under enormous pressure before we’d even heard of coronavirus: the climate is changing, putting pressure on species and ecosystems, and human activity – from mining to building new railway lines – is destroying habitat at an unprecedented rate.

Of course people were concerned about these pressures, but amid global political debates about our response individuals often found it difficult to relate to such huge challenges. Now we know that day to day changes can have a positive impact on our environment.

A consequence of reduced movement is that pollution from vehicles in our towns and cities is falling. That, of course, is because there are fewer cars on the road and planes in the skies, but it does remind us that, provided urban trees and plants are nurtured they can help clear atmospheric pollution.

Many watercourses are also cleaner, in part because their natural processes for coping with pollution can work better as the pollution load falls.

Hardly a day goes by without a news item celebrating how, in the midst of lockdown and one of the greatest public health challenges we’ve faced for a generation, we’re appreciating nature so much more.

We’re finding, as the Green Halo Partnership has argued since our foundation in 2017, that a healthy natural environment is not just a ‘nice to have’, but the goods and services it provides us are essential to our physical and mental wellbeing.

Encouraged by the Government to take exercise once a day, many people are re-discovering the joy of a walk in the woods, or in the local park. There is a new appreciation of our native birds singing to defend territories and attract mates. For those fortunate to have the space around them there is a new-found interest in gardening and home-schooled children are being introduced to the delights of growing vegetables.

But this has also highlighted the inequality of access to green space amongst our communities. Many people do not have access to a garden, a shared communal space or a green space within walking distance of their home and the demand for access to nature cannot be sufficiently met to provide benefits for all.

Now, as a consequence of an unprecedented pandemic, we have a moment in which to respond to a global stimulus, to address some of these challenges that were too huge to contemplate and to take account of what we’ve learnt about the need for nature in daily life.

Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist observed that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

What if we were to use the space created by the lockdown to generate ideas for the future of our area – ideas that build in what nature gives us for free as expressed through the four themes of the Green Halo Partnership – the natural environment, sustainable living, the local economy and health and wellbeing?

UK Business Secretary and COP26 President Alok Sharma has called for governments around the world to place clean technologies at the heart of post-C19 planning, to lead a green and resilient recovery. What might that look like in our area?

At the Green Halo Partnership we would love to hear your thoughts on how we can lock in environmental benefits following lockdown.

Join the debate at #GreenRecovery

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